From Today’s NYT

I’m just gonna post the whole bloody article…

A Sex Stop on the Way Home
By COREY KILGANNON
There is a narrow parking lot in Cunningham Park in Queens surrounded by playing fields for adult softball and youth soccer and baseball. At one end of the lot, retirees arrive to practice their golf and mothers in minivans gather to wait for their Little Leaguers.

The other end is popular with another set with a much lower profile in this suburban setting: gay men cruising for sex. Their playing field is the parking lot itself and the goal is a sexual encounter, usually quick and anonymous.

[Honest question – has anyone ever seen an article about a straight version of this? I’m not talking about prostitution. I’m talking about quick and anonymous sex in parking lots between consenting heterosexual adults with no money exchanged. Another question – why is the NYT doing this story? To talk about how repressive the suburbs are? How widespread homosexuality is, even in the supposedly straight suburbs? I’m not sure how well it works.]

Manhattan may have its gay bars and such traditional pickup spots as the woods of the Ramble in Central Park [Again – any stories out there about the Central Park woods where straights hook up? I’m not baiting – I’m serious here.] and the piers of the West Village. But in the less-accepting climate of the suburbs and the boroughs outside Manhattan, gay men often resort to courting one another from the relative safety and privacy of their cars. They troll remote parking lots that become de facto pickup spots well known in gay circles but not to the general public.

Long Island spots include Two Mile Hollow Beach in East Hampton, the Field 6 parking lot at Jones Beach, a rest stop near Exit 52 on the Long Island Expressway and the park-and-ride lot on Route 110 in Melville. Each has its own culture and often its own set of protocols, ranging from parking position to the flashing of headlights or blinkers as mating calls.

[Cars as come-ons. Why has no one done a short story in the New Yorker about this? Come on, you know you’ve already thought of the title…. “Auto-Erotic.”]

The parking lot in Queens seems to be especially popular with men who lead ostensibly heterosexual lives but show up for sex because it is quick, easy to get and secretive, regulars say. The lot, along Hollis Hills Terrace just south of 73rd Avenue in Queens Village, is close to several major parkways, and its location helps make it popular with men who commute between New York City and the suburbs, where they often have a house, a mortgage, a wife and children.

[Wives – write down that address! Or maybe you’d rather not. Probably wouldn’t matter. After this article, it seems unlikely that hubby’s gonna use that particular lot much anymore.]

“The vast majority of men who come here are married,” said one longtime parking lot user, who like the other men interviewed there recently would not tell his name because of concerns ranging from embarrassment to fears of gay-bashing.

“I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve had here who were wearing wedding bands, with baby seats in the car and all kinds of kids’ toys on the floor. It’s on their way home and they don’t have to get involved in a relationship or any gay lifestyle or social circles. They don’t even have to buy anyone a drink or be seen in a gay bar. They just tell the wife, ‘Honey, I’ll be home an hour late tonight.’ “

Regulars say that the married men enjoy the risk and recklessness of semipublic sex, which usually means receiving oral sex in their cars or having other sexual encounters in the woods nearby.

“Some aren’t getting it at home,” the man added. “Some say, ‘I’m not even gay. I’m just bored.’ “

[Whoa. That’s the most telling line in the piece.]

Almost any time from noon till 9 p.m., when the lot is officially closed, the scene is the same. The narrow section has two long rows of parking spaces into which the men back their cars, forming two rows of cars facing each other with a thoroughfare between them.

Each newcomer trolls this thoroughfare with all eyes upon him and surveys the other men in cars, who may either perk up and look interested or shut the window and look away. Then with a dramatic swoop, the driver will back his car next to the car of the man he is pursuing.

[Dramatic swoops – even when they’re driving, they’re flamboyant! Oh, Mr. NYT writer, you should be dragged over coals for that one. But who’s gonna accuse of the NYT of perpetuating gay stereotypes?]

It all has the deliberate positioning, shifting and movement of a chess game. The parking lot is a fishbowl and the action unfolds like a soap opera each day. Some longtime lot regulars who are openly gay enjoy gathering to observe and narrate the forays and entreaties as they occur. The lot serves the lonely as well as the lusty, they said, helping men seeking friendship and a place to socialize and bond.

“There’s so much loneliness among gay men,” one lot user said. “A lot of guys just want someone to talk to.”

[Or, according to this article, a quickie in the woods.]

The parking lot’s use as a gay cruising spot goes back at least to the 1960’s, several older men said. “I spent the halcyon days of my youth here,” one said. “This place was paradise back then.”

As for sex, the regulars say that they prefer the parking lot to gay bars since there is little in the way of drugs and alcohol and there is more honesty about sexually transmitted diseases. Many regulars say they make arrangements to go home together or to a motel since a strong police presence makes sex in the car or the woods too risky. They add, however, that for certain men, this risk only increases the excitement and allure of on-site sex.

“You would not believe the guys who come here,” said a 50-year-old Queens man who repairs boilers and is a regular. “You have judges, doctors, lawyers, firemen, cops, sanitation workers. You have guys coming here with totally normal lives, married with good jobs.”

Another set of parking lot users is much more reluctant to discuss the cruising activity. These men begin to arrive sometime after 5 p.m. wearing shirts and ties and driving S.U.V.’s and snazzy sports cars. These men tend to be slightly jittery. Sometimes their cars have tinted windows. Generally, they refuse to discuss the parking lot with a reporter or say they have simply come to read a book or relax in their cars.

While most lots are far from public view, the one in Queens is hidden in plain sight. The lot can be found on Web sites listing gay cruising spots, including one that describes it as a “cruisy parking lot” that “seems safe and private enough.”

The activity seems not to be noticed by nonparticipants. Even the softball players who arrive after work and change their shirts outside their cars do not seem to notice the admiring audience they attract since most of the gay men do not leave their cars.

[Now I’m thinking this is a joke. How many softball players do you know with ripped abs?]

When contacted about the parking lot, the president of the Friends of Cunningham Park, Marc A. Haken, said he was “totally unaware” that there was sexual activity there.

Mr. Haken said that some years ago there was a well-known cruising spot in another parking lot, farther inside the park, and that many participants often repaired to the woods for sexual encounters.

“You would see one guy in a car and then another head would pop up, or they would gather and have sex in the woods,” he said. The lot was partitioned off in recent years for official vehicles, he said, adding, “I guess that’s when they – I hate to say ‘they’ but I don’t know what words to use – they migrated to the other lot.”

[“They” – it’s a pronoun. Don’t fear the pronoun.]

He said that there had been no complaints from park users and residents.

“But I don’t think that 10-year-olds in a parking lot on the way to soccer should see some guy getting oral sex in a car,” he said. [Yeah, that’s probably for the best. Dear reporter, you might have asked the trollers how they felt about this.] One recent evening, a half-dozen mothers stood chatting, waiting for their children to finish soccer. A stone’s throw away, a group of gay men stood narrating the attempt of a man trolling the lot in a tan sedan to woo the cute man parked in the black S.U.V. with tinted windows backed into a spot.

“The guy in the brown car’s a dog, he’s always here,” the man narrating said. “I’ve never seen the black car before. But watch, here he’ll pull right up to him and see what happens.” Within moments, the man in the tan sedan hopped into the S.U.V. and the windows closed.

“Woop, there he goes,” the narrator said. “You go, girl.”

While gay gatherings take many forms in ethnically diverse Queens, from the scene in Astoria Park to the gay bars serving Central and South Americans in Jackson Heights, many ethnic groups have strong taboos against homosexuality.

“Society doesn’t accept us and it’s hard to meet people, sexually or socially,” said a 42-year-old graduate student from Queens visiting the parking lot. “You know, not everyone who’s gay lives in Manhattan and runs in packs like ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.’ “

Comments

  1. Mark Lickona says

    This is the all-too-obvious legacy of porn and contraception brought to you by the boomers (if I’m not mistaken, that would be the generation of most of the interviewees): Marriage is dead. Long live sex.

    P.S.: “Society doesn’t accept us”? You’ve got to be kidding! What you mean is, “I don’t accept myself”! Meaning, “I’m ashamed!” So perhaps that’s some sign of…something. At least they’re not trysting outside their cars just yet. But give it a few years. Then moms will just have to learn that they can’t let Johnny wander too far after softball practice.

    P.P.S.: For the record, that “narrator” sounds as snide as any of those a–holes on “Queer Eye.”

    P.P.P.S.: The matter-of-fact reporting of this crazy mess, together with the social lament of the last paragraph, leads me to conclude that this is a piece of “it’s-normal-so-why-don’t-we-end-the-shame” homoprop.

  2. Mark Lickona says

    4P.S.: Nice glossing.

  3. When I worked at the Family Research Council, this topic came up a few times. One of the department-heads there had gotten hold of a statistic regarding the propensity of gay men to engage in very risky, semi-public, anonymous sex. Her intent was to use it to show that homosexuals, by and large, are not “normal.”

    This article is pretty much the response that came back like a cannonball. “Cruising” is not representative of homosexuals. The practice is limited almost exclusively to married men or men with severe personality disorders that prevent them from having any sort of meaningful relationship. The argument goes on to say that “cruising” is a also a by-product of their long-repressed lifestyle, and that as homosexuality gains acceptance, it is slowly dying. So the argument goes, anyhow.

    In part, I think the point of the article is to titilate. I also think that the author (and his editor) may be trying to make the point that there is no bright-line distinction between gay and straight. And hey, aren’t we all just “lonely?”

    Rory

  4. Rory, titillation can’t be it; you need to see the picture of the fat guy w/ the pink socks that’s included w/ the story. I don’t think anyone can find that titillating.

    I think there is some merit to the argument that public cruising isn’t so much gay phenomenon as it is a “severe personality disorder” phenomenon. I suspect it’s prevalent among gay men also has less to do w/ being gay and more to do w/ being a man. You don’t hear about lesbians doing this sort of thing. The promiscuity being discussed in the article is also because of a lack of women. Women check the inner frat boy; these guys seek these places out b/c the inner frat boy can run free w/out the risk of pregnancy (and apparently, they seem fine w/ running the risk of std).

    I suspect some of Matt’s regular readers will disagree w/ this analysis. I’m open to correction, though!

  5. Matthew Lickona says

    Well, Anon,
    The punchline of the story – I’m not even gay; I’m just bored – seems to lend some weight to the notion that what’s really desired is purely recreational sex, completely abstracted from person-to-person communion and (heaven forfend) the possibility of children.
    But Rory,
    I dunno about the “slowly dying now that that gays are no longer so oppressed” thing. The old guy seems to have nothing but fond memories of his younger cruising days. There’s no sense of “That’s what I was driven to.”
    As for the “cruising is not representative” line – what about bathhouse culture? Is that representative? Honest question.

  6. That is so very sad and…icky.

  7. Gen X Revert says

    I agree somewhat with Anonymous (if that is your REAL name). The cruising on Long Island at Exit 49 and 52 on the LIE has long been a well known fact. There are plenty of gay bars and clubs for Long Islanders to go to, as well as the internet to meet people. (Not to mention that little town called Manhattan where there have been known to be some places that cater to gay people). So guys that cruise aren’t doing it for lack of a place where they can be accepted. The interesting question is why there isn’t more enforcing of the law, when cruising is a health risk, connected to drugs most of the time, and at the beach where guys cruise on sand dunes, environmentally damaging. Not to mention, illegal when the parking lots and beaches are closed.

  8. Gen X Revert says

    This article jogged my memory and a google search turned up an interesting article. The same Corey Kilgannon wrote about a police crackdown on cruising on the eastern end of Long Island where some cried homophobia – go read
    http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=3546

  9. I used to live near Fenway in Boston and would repeatedly interrupt men having sex with each other while out walking my dog in the middle of the day. I remember years ago there was a big stink about the City wanting to remove all of the reeds along the river that runs through Fenway. The gay “community” was up in arms and trying to stop it because the removal was designed just to prevent gay men from meeting each other for recreational sex, and therefore reed removal was “homophobic”. Yes, really.

    Of course, Fenway is also home to many muggers, but removing the weeds to stop mugging couldn’t possibly be one of the City’s interests. Nope!

  10. Matthew Lickona says

    Jenn,
    It’s hardly on-topic, but I used to live on Beacon Street. We could see the Citgo sign from our window, and we could walk to Fenway. Happily, I never ran into the sorts of things you ran into.

  11. I wasn’t trying to support or defend the pro-gay cruising argument. I’m just the messenger.

    I would agree that there is no evidence that the practice is in decline, but I would also argue that there’s no evidence that it has increased or stayed the same. It is a purely underground phenomenon, and as a result, any evidence you can gather will be purely anecdotal. As such, it is very open to manipulation/interpretation/fabrication by both sides.

    The real issue here is what is the author trying to do with this information? Maybe he’s trying to coerce some sort of acceptance from the reader. Reading liberally between the lines, I wonder how much of it has to do with those men with “normal” lives (job, family, suv) who are discussed in the article. The men who are “out” are not active participants, but there only to observe and make fun. That leaves the “normal” men and the rejects. See what years of repression has done?

    Rory

  12. Matthew,

    “This place was paradise back then.”

    This, it seems, is the most telling line in the story – and you don’t need a degree in theology to tell you what’s wrong with this line – even on a figurative level.

    Gays, according to E. Michael Jones, are hellbent, not on pleasure, but destruction.

    To wit:

    Gay man: “This place was paradise back then.”

    (Adam: “Yeah, I know what you mean…”)

    JOB

  13. I missed this story the first time and read now, wishing I missed reading it all together. What surprised me was the gay bashing of comments that followed! And why call Queer Eye guys assholes?

    Basically all men are not to be trusted. Sorry, I bashed! Matthew wrote in his book how a Priest molested him, and not just once! After telling his father of these events it took his Dad three days to muster a response. Believe me, if I told my parent of a similar event I’d still be talking and they would be out there taking care of business, PRONTO!

    Gay or Straight, each can go too far. Now we even fear the gays who are celibate. Which begs the question… What are men really afraid of?

  14. Mark Lickona says

    I called them a–holes because that’s what they are. It has nothing to do with them being gay. Unless you want to characterise them as catty b-tches. Then I suppose their affectations come into it.

  15. Gee Mark, I guess you must define “Assholes” for some of us! The — between obvious — in words is a little tired, go for the word unless that’s the way you speak normally.

    You left yourself out there a bit “with foot in mouth”, to say your comment had nothing to be with them being gay, then follow with comment of “catty b-tches”, oops! Yes, you’ve got a bit of an issue with them being Gay, and then you have to understand and explain to all of us, … why?

  16. Matthew Lickona says

    “Matthew wrote in his book how a Priest molested him, and not just once! After telling his father of these events it took his Dad three days to muster a response. Believe me, if I told my parent of a similar event I’d still be talking and they would be out there taking care of business, PRONTO!”

    Actually, it was just once – that one time he kissed me on the racquetball court. I’m not sure what you mean by “taking care of business,” but I hope you’re not implying that my father somehow failed me in taking time to consider what was the best course of action. His response was immediate – what took time was figuring out where to go with it, to Father or the Bishop.

  17. If it took longer than an hour to reply to the abuse (it took yout father three days) to the Bishop, how many others were then abused? You did mention that later this priest had died from AIDS.

  18. Mark: You do seem to have a bit of an “issue” with Gays, you might as well spell it out next time and we all can take it clearly from there.

  19. Matthew Lickona says

    Anon,
    I’m not sure what you’re getting at. My father’s first instinct was to talk to Father Dave directly – reach out to him in charity, get his explanation, try to give him both understanding and help. An eminently Christian instinct, in my opinion. But as he considered the matter, he realized the larger danger you seem to allude to – the danger to other children. That led him to go to the bishop. I think it worth noting that what happened between me and Father Dave was an unwanted advance – I wouldn’t term it molestation. He kissed me. I didn’t respond. He left it at that. Had I reported to my father that Father Dave had gone further than that, I suspect his reaction would have been much stronger/faster. As it was, it was possible to consider it a tiny slip, to hope that it was not part of a larger problem. This was in the mid-80s – these sorts of things were not so well known. Yes, Father Dave did go further with other boys. Yes, he did leave the priesthood. Yes, he did die of AIDS. A terrible tragedy. But again, I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

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