The first time it really occurred to me that I was meeting unusual people, I was 20 years old. A friend's girlfriend lived in a large, new garden apt complex in Roselle Park NJ. It was a substandard dump from the moment it was built. Roselle Park is a one square mile, very middle/working class town, at the time exclusively white, & apt residents there were sort of like outsiders residing amongst us. This girl invited us to have afternoon coffee with a woman living above her. We knocked, went in, & to our surprise a local politician was there & just leaving, he looked embarrassed, & mumbled something about being there on a political matter. I thought nothing of it. It was a nicely decorated apt, lots of scented candles, an imitation Tiffany lamp, very comfortable couch. The coffee was excellent, with Italian cookies from a local bakery, conversation interesting - she was an attractive, sophisticated woman in her late-twenties, well-read, broad taste in music. After awhile, I sensed something peculiar about her, but nothing in my experience could explain it. Later, I asked my friend's girlfriend about this feeling I had. She said we had been visiting a whore; she didn't use the vulgar word, actually a "kept" woman whose clients were a select group of politicians, businessmen, & a few professional football players. She really appreciated social visits from non-clients. She didn't get out much except to make house calls or go shopping. She did most of her "entertaining" at home. "You should see her bedroom," said the girl. "I can't afford that," I said. We visited her a few more times before my friend's girlfriend moved down to Long Branch with her divorced mom, to another garden apt. There, her mom dated a golf hustler & gambler with vague Mafia connections, who always showed up with a bag of terrific sub sandwiches & six packs of beer & Pepsi, & could care less that we had long hair & wore tie dye tee shirts. He also arranged access for us to a private beach behind a mansion that looked unoccupied but had well-kept landscaping. "Just walk down the driveway like you know where you're going." Other friends of his had the same deal. He had lots of great night club & race track stories, but we knew better than to ask about his "business."
Partly, I've always been a naive small town guy, frequently enough baffled by experiences & people. But by temperament I'm indifferent to many things. When I realized there were gays & lesbians all around & they didn't always announce themselves, I didn't much care who they were or if I knew it or not. But over time I began to care very much that society was preventing them from living the ordinary middle class existences most aspired toward. I could be nosy, the kind of person who looked in your bathroom cabinet, but I wouldn't tell anyone what I found in there. It was just to satisfy my own curiosity.
Labels: growing up
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson