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Permission granted by author for anyone to distribute this
writing free of charge (including translation into any
language)...under condition that no profit is made therefrom,
and that it remain intact and complete, including title and 
credit to the original author.

Ezekiel J. Krahlin

(A True Tale From The Castro. Eat your heart out, Armistead!)

© 2007 by Ezekiel J. Krahlin

Hi, Eleanor. Great news: your first of two books that I ordered from Amazon, just arrived this afternoon. I was delighted to see the bubbled-wrapped packet when I went downstairs to the lobby, and opened my mailbox. But I really wanted to get out of my room (that's right, I just have a room, an SRO...though it is an apt. bldg. not a hotel...among all the REAL apts. are 3 single rooms on each floor, which share a bathroom down the hallway. Really humiliating to be seen walking down the hall in my SRO renters are treated like "bad" people from Dogpatch USA.).

So I stuffed the packet into my backpack and took off for the inner Mission, where I shop for most of my fresh they got two "dollar" stores within a block of each other, where I buy my sunglasses, stocking caps, detergent, light bulbs, soap, utensils, containers, and one or two other things I don't remember offhand...oh, yeah, and bandanas which I wear as headgear ("do rags" is what the brothers call 'em, I think).

Planning to eat out after shopping, 'cause the Mission has a lot of great cheap-eat places. Wound up at a Chinese restaurant on Valencia & 17th, where they whip up a truly DELICIOUS rice plate of sweet-and-sour prawns for just $5.95. While waiting for dinner, I grew restless and wanted to read some of your book. But for the life of me, I simply could NOT tear open the bubble wrap; and I had no scissors. So I asked the waiter if he could do me that favor...he took it back into the kitchen and performed the kindly deed.

I didn't know WHICH of the two books this was: "Death in Slow Motion" or "Shangri-LA: The Return to the World of Lost Horizon"...though I did hope that the latter would come first, as I already deal with so MUCH tragedy in my line of work.

I slipped the hardbound w/slick cover from its bubble sleeve to discover the FORMER. Sadly, the lighting there was too dim to read comfortably, but I did read the very first paragraph. What a wallop, a sock in the jaw! I really like your intensely eloquent style...cynicism with a vengeance. Cynicism so raw, it feels like love.

I can't wait to curl up in some cozy coffeehouse tomorrow--snug from the first wonderful rains of the season--to savor the first few chapters.

But something is more pressing, still: reading your dialog with vasumurti (with you as morticia...what an Addams Family moniker) regarding the abortion issue. You were right when you said it's lengthy (though well worth it), due to his asshole's voluminous verbiage. Just the debate between you two is a book in itself! In fact, it took almost a half hour to load each comment page chronologically, and copy/paste it into a text file...that I may read it offline. I do not have broadband access, thus my 56kbps modem is NO friend of fast-loading pages.

So I will read MOST if not ALL of that exchange tonight...I know I'll be totally enthralled, just hope it doesn't give me nightmares!

Side note: On my way to the restaurant, I walked by a terribly handsome man who I've seen some time ago, and even had a few conversations. I know he's on the streets...but he always dresses well, looks clean, healthy and substance-abuse free. But I hesitated, kept walking, then stopped and turned around to look back, walked by him the other direction and into the coffeehouse next door, pretending to view posters and ads. Then stepped back out (it was drizzling and gray, I love that weather), walked by Hot Stuff again, looked at him/looked away (he seemed to just be staring meditatively into the gray sky), and proceeded on down to the restaurant of my choosing.

After opening your book and reading the first paragraph...after scarfing up those yummy prawns/bell pepper/onion and rice smothered in sour/sweet bright orange sauce...after exiting the restaurant...

I decided to seek him out for real this time, and offer to buy him a large coffee. But he wasn't there any more: the bench on which he sat by the coffeehouse's large window. Of course: it was now raining kinda heavy, and he went inside! So I took a sharp right through the door, looked around (even walked through the narrow hallway to the back partition that you can't see from the front, where extra customer tables reside)...and [sigh] guess what: Dream-Boy was NOT present. Oh well.

So I commence my hike home (about 7 blocks, no hills), burdened by a pack stuffed with groceries and disappointment. Two blocks down the road, enjoying the cool rain and the idea that your first book has arrived...I pause at a red light, waiting to cross Guerrero Street. I look to my left, across Mission, and what do my eyes behold?

You guessed it: Mr. Darling standing on the opposite corner, also waiting to cross! Well, I thinks to meself, I should amble on over to him right now. But right when I took that decisive first step to Male Utopia, the green light blinked into red. (Hey, what happened to yellow? Do the gods hate me?)

Okay, I'll cross as planned and walk PARALLEL to His Dudeness, and decide exactly WHEN I'll cross over to His Beautiful World. Well, the light turned green for us, we both crossed, then I stopped to watch his next move: nope, he did not deflect to my side; instead he kept on trucking straight ahead. So I decide the time is NOW to cross the street and approach This Object of my Salivating Glands.

I employed a classic gay-cruising strategy : attack from the rear. Catching up to him on his right, I passed a few feet ahead, then turned my face in his direction, said SUPER-nonchalantly:

"Looks like our rainy season has kicked in for sure!"

Well, his gracious big smile lit up my day...who needs sunlight when you got that? And what stunning, clear blue-gray irises! He's around 6-foot-2, just 2" shorter than my Larkin, though not skinny like dufus: he's moderately hunky, beautifully proportioned with shoulders that could fling a dozen of myselves over them as he rescued me from a conflagrating opera house (did I just invent two new words)!

"Yeah, sure looks like it," he replied, obviously glad for my presence. He took the bait, now reel 'im in!

"I've seen you before," I explained, "some months ago at Muddy Waters on Church Street"...which was in fact just three blocks away. "I enjoyed talking with you, and hoped to see you again."

"Thanks!" he egged me on.

"My name is Zeke. And yours?" I extended my hand.

"Dean. My name is Dean." He gave me a strong, hearty handshake in return.

"Say, I'd like to buy you a coffee, are you up to it?"

"Sure, I could use some coffee right about now."

So we walked back to Muddy Waters on Valencia Street where we both just were, though not tandem. He was excellent company, spoke intelligently with a good sense of humor. I like a guy who can carry a good conversation; they're rare in these hyper-steroid super-duper-macho-pooper times. He strikes me as a genuinely GOOD guy: also rare.

Dean thanked me several times for the coffee and my company, and was very polite when I introduced him to an old friend i hadn't seen in a year, who magically appeared there just moments after we arrived. This old friend, Bob, is quite I find a person to be of good character who greets him warmly and does not act rude, just because he ain't the cat's meow in the Looks Department.

Dean will have a job soon, so he's well on the way to stabilizing his life again, after being homeless for over three years. He originally hails from Illinois, but he's been a denizen of Frisco since 1994. He is nicely dressed in a clean, street-wise slacker/punk sort of way. Including a dark blue denim jacket with fake velour green&black tiger striped shirt cuffs sticking out. By "fake" I don't mean the velour, though that is most likely the case...I mean the cuffs themselves were not part of a shirt, they were sewn on the ends of the jacket cuffs. The jacket collar ALSO sported that same lining as the pseudo-cuffs. The jacket's back has a simple, all-white embroidered design towards the bottom...but for the life of me I can't remember what it was (a streetcar? victorian house? golden gate bridge? japanese tea gardens? our wedding cake?), guess I was terribly distracted by those starburst-saucer eyes and all-around drop-dead gorgeous face! He also wore a black beret over a--guess what--"do rag". (Or is it "dew" rag, 'cause of the sweat from your brow? Gotta ask my friend Joe 'bout that...though just 'cause he's black doesn't mean he know all about ghetto talk...though he IS street wise.)

Then towards the end of our visit, some hollering broke out at the back part of the coffeehouse. Turns out a homophobic cholo started threatening a gay customer, calling him faggot and cocksucker...scared the gay dude who then drew out a buck knife and gave him a warning cut on the chin, told him to back off. The screaming (all by the instigator) went on, some people left, then the cops came. They took his knife, handcuffed him, asked the pertinent questions, saw he was calm and collected, so released him from the cuffs and returned his knife. Meanwhile, the rat who started this all had by this time, scurried off. As a witness, I gladly gave a thorough description...and was heartened to see a gay person not react in fear, but instead gave the 'phobe a run for his money, if you get my drift.

Besides, one of those cops was SUCH A DOLL, I almost fainted. But I did worry about a certain bad habit of his: chewing gum, which I believe is not just unprofessional, but in violation of the rules when on duty. He was quite young, and I want him to succeed in his career...but how could he hope to become the BEST gay cop ever, chewing gum and blowing/popping bubbles while on the job? Perhaps I should have offered him a SAFER and more WHOLESOME way to relieve his oral cravings that WON'T impinge upon his professional record...but I was already creaming in my jeans over my new buddy Dean, and good gosh, whadda you think I am, a fire hose?

I almost invited Dean home, to cuddle up all night and otherwise have a wonderful time together. But a girl never kisses on the first date: what's her problem? (Glad I'm a guy.) He checks out with A-plus marks all around, so I DO feel comfortable inviting him over next time. Dean expressed a desire to see me again, like tomorrow! We'll meet same place, same time. Our first date! And I'll shower him with kisses the moment I get this Guardian Angel of My Heart (and loins) alone and in my arms!

Wait! Story's not over yet. So I FINALLY walk home, this time for real...when upon crossing Church on Market, I see Larkin hangin' out in front of The Metro bar, as he often does these's his new stomping ground since being 86'd from ALL the gay bars South of Market. (Though I know that he's recently been welcome BACK, wined and dined, feted and sated, catered to in every possible way by those same jealous souls who kicked him out in the first place--then me a few months later...and who hate me even MORE, enough to befriend Larkin--for the 1st time in their sorry little/punky little/seedy little lives--in order to get back at "moi". It is to laugh! I'm in COMPLETE control, and all it takes at this point, is continued PATIENCE for Larkin to come to his senses. And he will, and it looks like it's gonna happen real soon.)

At this point I CUSS myself for not inviting Dean home, since I suddenly realize I blew a golden OPPORTUNITY to saunter past Larkin with a studly urban cowboy on my arm. Aw, shucks! This "Game of Love" has always played me for a sucker...UNLIKE the "Game of Staying Home and Watching TV Every Friggin Night of the Week because I Never Have a Date, No, NeverNeverNever" (in which I excel).

I know he sees me walking toward him...but this time instead of walking down the middle of the sidewalk (pretending we're strangers, I don't know him from Adam), I decide to walk close to the curb, right BEHIND him as he chats to some nobody. I stroll close enough to give a light tug on his shirttail, but I don't. (Maybe next time.) I stroll a few dozen feet more, then pause and turn around to gaze upon his handsome countenance.

Yesterday, I saw Larkin enter a bar across the street from where I was standing. This place, "Twin Peaks," is right on the corner of Castro & Market, and has an all-glass, wrap-around front that exposes EVERYONE to public scrutiny. I understand Gay History honors that hangout, for being the very FIRST gay bar to come out of the closet, here in San Francisco. And that is why they designed the bar to be totally VISIBLE to any and all passersby, motorists, and transit passengers.

There are newsstands in front of Twin Peaks, so it was an easy stunt for me to stand there, pretending I'm reading a paper, while actually looking at Larkin through sunglasses. I extracted the Bay Guardian from one of the newstand boxes, and started reading aloud the Tom Tomorrow comic if I were reading to Larkin in bed. Halfway through, I noticed another handsome male only three feet away, enjoying my recital. I returned his smile, and continued to read.

Having finished Tom T., I conjured up other surreptitious ways where Larkin and I could see each other w/o letting anyone else on. I crossed the street to the nearest corner (it's a 5-corner intersection), and stood there as if waiting for a streetcar. I was in direct line of Larkin's view. Then I crossed to the furthest corner, and sat on a raised curb by some grass, where we could STILL see each other, though at three times the distance. Then I moved to another corner, stayed there awhile, then another, then right by the doorway of Twin Peaks (which--happy circumstance--was also a bus stop). Larkin could see me whether he had his back to me or not, from his position on that bar stool. He could turn around and look directly at me, or just stare straight into the room-length mirror behind the bartenders, and see my reflection. Kindly, he did both.

I decided I've done this long enough to affirm my friendship through a difficult and scary time, so crossed the street to go home. But when I did that, Larkin departed, too. Seeing me, he decided to NOT cross in my direction, but just walk up the sidewalk to the next block, then cross, cross again, and enter another bar (the "old" Metro; I don't know what it's called now). I stood by the front gate to my apartment building, to show Larkin I respect his space, so he could cross without anxiety, for I was at least thirty feet away.

Back to the present: today has been a good day. A very good day. Thanks in no small part, to your first book's debut into my small world. (The ONLY thing small about me, heh. Like I tell the bartender when I order coffee: "The only time I let someone call me a bottom, is in reference to my willingness to drink the rest of the coffee from the bottom of the pot.")

Speaking of bottom: you've come to the end of my letter, as I really want to start reading your incredible Alternet abortion dialog, and then the book about your Mom. I'm afraid my father, who IS ninety, will die before my own mother passes on from Alzheimer's. At his age, that's usually a death blow!

So I must depart for the nonce, dear newest e-friend Eleanor. Type you later!

- Zeke

PS: Remember in my first letter to you I said: "Cooney seems to be a known name in the literary horror circle?" My bad! I was thinking of the surname "Koontz" as in "Dean Koontz". Could've been worse, though: I could've said: "Cooney seems to be a known name in the 40's-50's singers' circle." Glad I didn't make THAT faux pas.)