potatoes, blizzards and sex have in common:
Before breakfast and before leaving Salt Lake City, I walked through
Memory Grove – in more than one way. Memory
Grove is a magnificent park located directly below the Utah’s capitol
dome. On sunny days, it is also the crusiest gay spot in Salt Lake
City. Sixteen years ago, as a young sailor stationed in Idaho Falls,
I would come to Salt Lake City and hang out in this park. I met a
muscled farm-equipment salesman turned bartender here and we spent weekends
running around Salt Lake on our motorcycles. Today, the park is empty,
the farm-equipment salesman gone off to greener pastures and I climb in
the MINI and head
before I discovered Memory Grove, I came out…in a blizzard.
In 1987, the Navy sent me to Idaho Falls to complete my nuclear reactor
operator training. Arriving late in the fall, I took a small
upstairs apartment in Ammon, Idaho, where I’d live when I wasn’t climbing
around a reactor plant.
When winter arrived, so did a story among the sailors about someone
being court-martialed for raping his roommate. In a small town where
alcohol was the best source of entertainment, such rumors were generally
passed around with little regard.
met the purported rapist, Ed, at a Christmas party (held by my friend Eric,
who had posters of naked men in his room which he explained away as “inspiration
for my workouts”). Ed and I chatted briefly and then parted company.
Fast forward six days to New Year’s Eve. My New Year’s party was
rapidly deteriorating as a blizzard slammed Idaho. Snow drifts four
feet high blocked most of the roads and one guest after another called
to cancel. Stranded in my remote apartment, I resigned myself to
a night alone watching television. But one guest I had forgotten
to mention did arrive – Ed. Alone on New Year’s Eve, I officially
“came out” with Ed. And for the record – it was entirely consensual
– and how!
[In case you are wondering, Ed didn’t really rape his roommate and was
found innocent at his Courts Martial. Despite being the most “out”
sailor I’ve ever met, Ed stayed in the Navy and was approaching retirement
eligibility last time I spoke with him.]
Shortly thereafter, I moved in with Ed. It did not last long
– six weeks, if I recall correctly. I then took an
apartment above a motorcycle dealership whose management took a dim
view of Ed’s repeated late night attempts to regain my affection.
Believing my story that Ed was crazy, they assertively encouraged him to
stay on the other side of the river.
Idaho Falls is larger than I remember. My isolated Ammon apartment
is now just blocks from large tract homes. The Mormon
Temple still serves as a landmark and presides over the falls of the
Snake River. The sailors are gone, as are many of the scientists
who once worked on nuclear reactors (return tomorrow for more on this subject).
The Army/Navy surplus store where we bought spare uniforms now caters primarily
Falls was my college town. It was here young sailors first gained
independence – living free from family and the direct control of the Navy.
It was the place we partied, played, laughed and fought before we headed
out to the fleet and to the jobs the Navy hired us for in the first place.
It was the last summer – or winter – before we had to really grow up.
Here, among the potato fields and reactor sites, I kissed my first man,
made love for the first time, and learned organic chemistry – in two very
Tomorrow – flying
reactors, and an Atomic Raceway…
P.S. - This Idaho
Falls street sign is for the Bears of San Francisco. Iona Bear.
P.P.S. - Thank you Frank Stewart and Kevin for joining
the Change for