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Where The Boys Are
"Someday, when they look back and write about these times, I will be able to say that I was here. I danced every dance and knew the words to every song."
Jeff and ...
Where The Boys Are
"Someday, when they look back and write about these times, I will be able to say that I was here. I danced every dance and knew the words to every song."
Jeff and his on-again, off-again lover Lloyd Griffith are thirty-something professionals still grieving the death of their mentor, Javitz. Jeff bounces from party to party, forgetting his pain only when he's on the dance floor, immersed in a sea of beautiful boys with sculpted pecs and speed-bump abs. At his side is his protege, best friend, sister, and not-so-secret admirer Henry Weiner, once a ninety-eight-pound weakling who has lately blossomed into a hunky muscle-boy escort.
As the lives of Jeff, Lloyd, and Henry intertwine, each confronts a different challenge. Henry's repressed feelings of love for Jeff propel him on a quest to discover his own identity amid the often-seedy world of sex for cash. Lloyd deals with the dark side of the "fag hag" experience when his Provincetown housemate, Eva, exhibits increasingly bizarre behavior. But the most intriguing mystery of all involves the beautiful stranger Jeff meets at yet another circuit party and invites to move in. Anthony Sabe is a young man seemingly without a past, whose bright-eyed ingenuousness at first charms everyone, but later raises suspicions. When Jeff sets out to uncover the truth about Anthony, what he finds is progressively more disturbing, raising questions not only about Anthony but also about himself.
Over the course of a life-changing summer, Jeff, Lloyd, and Henry deal with the myriad issues confronting gay men today: sex, drugs, grief, AIDS, barebacking, body image, commitment, one-night stands, and the search for love. The first novel to be set on the gay party circuit, Where The Boys Are evokes a world with its own language, customs, traditions, and idiosyncracies, set to a backdrop of sex, drugs, and dance music.
"Guaranteed to send your temperature soaring."-The Advocate
Across the dance floor, some guy's squirting Windex in his mouth.
"Now I've seen everything," Henry says, all eyes and attitude.
I just shake my head. "Believe me, Henry. You have not seen everything."
For here on the dance floor, nothing quite makes sense in the way it does in the world beyond. Here the ludicrous becomes the sublime. Dress in spandex and sequins and funny little hats. Ingest substances not intended for human consumption. Stick your tongue down the throat of a beautiful stranger. Take off your pants and dance in your underwear. That's just the way things are.
"Still," Henry's sputtering, shaking his head, "the things some people will do for a fucking high. I mean, Windex-"
"Henry." I place my palms against his sweaty chest and press my face close to his. Eyes to eyes, nose to nose. "No talking on the dance floor."
It's my rule, and he knows it, even if he conveniently forgets it whenever he want to start gabbing. Henry's one of the chatty types. You know the kind I mean. The ones who insist on telling you, right in the middle of an awesome Rosabel club anthem remix, all about their new job or the size of the penis on their last trick or-worst of all-how tonight's DJ just really sucks: "Can you believe how he's mixing in all this trancey stuff with all this high-energy disco diva blah blah blah blah blah."
Dancer! We're here to dance!
That's why I come, anyway: to escape, to forget, to get swallowed up by a moist cocoon of four hundred men with the music spinning me higher and higher until it's taken control, slipping past my defenses like the fingers of a stranger trespassing beneath the waistband of my underwear.
That happens, too. One more example of the way things are.
"Oh, shit, Jeff," Henry says. "He saw me looking."
I roll my eyes. "Who?"
"The Windex queen!"
A few feet away, to the giddy disgust of the boys around him, the tall blond guy is pumping the bright-blue liquid down his throat. But his eyes have locked onto Henry's, and he's now sidling our way, his lanky body easily angling around the huddles of boyflesh.
"Jeff, you've gotta hide me!" Henry yelps.
I just laugh. "Didn't I teach you to fight your own battles, buddy?"
"How you boys doin' tonight?" the Windex queen purrs, holding aloft his bottle like a prize. "Wanta get really twisted?"
I give the guy the once-over. A dyed blond, skinny and shapeless, with tiny little buds for nipples, one of which is pierced with a small gold ring.
"Thanks," I tell him, "but we're as twisted as we want to be."
"You boys are no fun," he says, pouting, moving on to his next victims. Henry leans into me and breathes a sigh of relief.
"Do you think that really is Windex?"
"Henry," I remind him, "no talking on the dance floor."
Okay. So maybe you think I'm coming across a little overweening here. I don't mean to be. Really, I don't. Oh, I'm sure in the course of this you're going to hear people say that I'm self-absorbed, arrogant, selfish. They said it last time, they'll say it again. But it's just that I've come here to dance, to close out the rest of the world for a night, to forget what I want so much to forget. Is that so wrong? So much to ask? I have no patience for dance floor vaudeville.
And maybe tonight I'm a little more impatient that usual. You see, it's getting close to midnight, and Lloyd still hasn't shown.
"Forgive me if I use my voice again, Jeff," Henry says, drawing close. "But are you starting to think that Lloyd isn't coming?"
"He's still got time," I insist.
Henry snorts. "And you're still convinced he's going to tell you he wants to move back in with you?"
Here's something you need to know about Henry: he's my best friend and I love him and he's terrific and all that, but he can be a total nag. I think somewhere down deep, Henry would like us to be more than just friends, and the idea of my ex-lover and me moving back in together probably unnerves him a little bit. So I just smile. "Well, we'll just have to wait and see," I suggest sweetly, "won't we, Henry?"
He just smirks and goes silent. Finally.
We both fall into the music. It's awesome tonight, being New Year's and all. The Ecstasy is sending warm shivers thoughout my body. I reach over and run my hands down Henry's torso, tweaking his nipples as I pass.
He opens his eyes. "Just because you're rolling, Jeff O'Brien, is no excuse to hit on your sister."
I pull in close. "You know you want me," I tease.
Henry pushes me away. "What I want," he insists, "is to be in Miami. Brent is in Miami, and you can be sure he'll tell us all about it."
Okay, a few more notes on Henry. I created this monster. Yes, I admit it. I take full responsibility for what he's become. Henry Weiner was once a good boy who never had more than a couple of Heinekens at happy hour, whose idea of a big Saturday night out was watching retro Cyndi Lauper videos at Luxor with a couple of pals until midnight. He was one of those nameless, faceless guys you see on the sidelines of clubs, standing with their cocktails, watching the world pass them by. He was a 120-pound insurance-company geek on the fast track to corporate paralysis when I met him, enticing him to take off his shirt and step into the limelight. I'll never forget the look of sheer wonderment on his face as he slipped in between Brent Whitehead and me on the dance floor. Now Henry weighs in at 185, has a hard-won six-pack of abs and a star-burst tattoo around his navel. Now it's very important to Henry to keep pace with the other boys-especially Brent, circuit boy extraordinaire, who makes sure he's at every important party around the nation and whose primary goal in life is to get a photo of his sweaty torso into the pages of Circuit Noize magazine.
I look over at Henry with mock sympathy. "Now, now, buddy, we were just in Miami last month for the White Party. Let's not become complete stereotypes, shall we?"
He sniffs. "All I know is, it's warm in Miami, and we froze our butts off on Tenth Avenue tonight."
"Hey, you're the one that nixed the cab."
He shakes his finger at me. Literally. Like some old schoolmarm. "And well I did. After paying a hundred bucks to get in here tonight-not to mention what I had to fork over for the X-I wasn't paying out any more cash than I had to."
I lace my fingers behind Henry's back and pull him close, crotch to crotch. "So what happened to it?" I purr into his ear. "Ecstasy is supposed to give you a love for all mankind."
Henry smiles. Our faces are close enough that I can smell the Altoid in his mouth. In moments like these I can tell he wants to kiss me. Or me to kiss him. I can feel my dick swell against him despite myself.
"I'm just not independently wealthy like you," Henry needles. "And besides, it's the millennium, Jeff. I'm always going to remember where I was when the twentieth century turned over into the twenty-first-and here I am, in New York of all places, where I could be any time, any year, any century." He pouts. "And Victor Calderone is spinning in Miami. You love Victor Calderone, Jeff."
"Junior's doing a fine job here."
Henry smirks. "So long as the power doesn't shut off at midnight."
"Oh, don't start with the Y2K stuff." I hold my hands up. "How many gallons of water did you stockpile again?"
He ignores me. "At least in Miami we wouldn't freeze without power."
"Henry." I narrow my eyes at him. "Read my lips. Ix-nay on the dance floor talk." I grab him around the waist just as Junior mixes in "Unspeakable Joy" by Kim English.
Henry smiles nastily. "You know, maybe Lloyd got stuck in the thirteenth century and can't make it back to the twenty-first."
"Don't be snide, Henry."
Okay, time for a little more background. Lloyd-the guy I'm waiting for-the guy with whom I've spent the last eleven years of my life in a crazy back-and-forth pas de deux-had a first stop to make this evening before winding up here at Twilo. It was a past-life regression gathering at some lady's house on the Upper West Side. Now, I can make fun of Lloyd's New Agey-ness, but I will not tolerate others doing the same thing. Not even Henry.
"I'm not being-" Henry suddenly stops. "Oh, God, Jeff. He's coming back."
Two things at once: on my right, I spot the Windex queen approaching again, a tall flurry of arms with a mischievous gleam in his eyes, and on my left, beyond the perimeter of the dance floor, I catch a sudden flash of goatee and one well-rounded shoulder. Lloyd. He's quickly obscured again by the throng of manflesh, but I'm sure it was him.
"Come on," the Windex queen is saying. "Just one little baby squirt?"
I watch as the freak show pumps a dollop of the blue stuff into his mouth and swallows it, licking his lips. Henry makes a face in horror.
"Girl," I say, tapping a finger against his sticky, sinewy chest, "if you're drinking Windex, then I'm a straight boy from Jersey City."
At that moment, the crowd parts, not unlike the Red Sea, in fact, and I spot him again. Lloyd. Our eyes connect. He waves when he sees me. God, how beautiful he looks. I quickly slip around the Windex queen to push into the throng of flesh.
"What's the matter?" the guy asks, mock-innocently. "Was it something I did?"
Henry frowns. "It's not you," he says, raising his voice so I can hear. "It's his ex-lover, with whom he's expecting a roses-and-champagne reconciliation at midnight so they can fade out together behind the end credits and live happily ever after."
So let Henry be snide and sarcastic. That's what sisters do best, isn't it? Well, screw him. I'm not sure I still believe in happy ever-afters, given everything that's happened in the last five years, but right now, spotting Lloyd across the dance floor, all that matters is that he's here.
Even before I see him fully, I know it's Jeff. That's just the way it is with us. We have this uncanny way of finding each other, of connecting across great distances. Even during the time we were apart, if I would have a dream about him one night, he was sure to call the next morning. Don't laugh. I believe in such things as psychic connections, soul mates, partners with whom you travel from life to life. How else to explain Jeff and me? It's not as if we're much alike. He actually enjoys these places with their smoke and sweat and stink and drugs. So call it whatever you want, but there is something bigger than the two of us that keeps us together. There has to be.
"Hey!" Jeff pushes his way out of the snake pit of the dance floor.
I can't help laughing at the image. "You look like one of those devil kids emerging from the cornfield."
Jeff's eyes widen and he raises his arms like a monster. "The Cheeldren of the Corn," he intones ominously, then breaks into a broad grin. We both laugh and fall into each other's arms. It's one of our favorite bad movies, watched on a rainy day in Provincetown, a pan of brownies rapidly disappearing between us.
We kiss. Lots of tongue and lips. I determine pretty quickly that Jeff is on X. His torso is sticky and wet. I'm shiftless, too, having adhered to the unwritten but widely observed policy of shirt removal moments after checking one's coat, but unlike Jeff-who no doubt has already been here for a while, slipping and sliding across countless boys on the dance floor-I have yet to break into a sweat.
"You look great, Cat," I tell him. And he does-better all the time, it seems. Jeff's always been good-looking-dark hair, classic features-but now he's bigger, broader, more cut. He's spent a lot of time at the gym over the past several years. And why not? He's had nothing else to do and hasn't needed to worry about money the way he used to. Besides, I think the gym, like his clubbing, is a way for him to escape. To forget. Jeff spends a lot of energy forgetting.
"You, too, Dog," he tells me. "You look great, too." We kiss again.
Our old nicknames flow easily. In fact, everything's been surprisingly easy these past few months, almost impossibly so. We stand there pec to pec, chin to chin, arms wrapped around each other's waists. We're the same height, so we're able to stare into each other's eyes until we both, at the same time, let loose with a grin. That's been happening a lot: whenever we look into each other's eyes for any length of time, we just can't hold back the smile.
"I'm really glad you got here before midnight," Jeff says softly, holding my face in his hands.
I wink at him. "With twenty minutes to spare, too."
"I never doubted you for an instant."
Okay, so he probably did, but it's sweet of him to pretend. He kisses me passionately for a moment, then pulls back to gaze into my eyes again.
I smile wryly. "How much X did you do, Jeff?"
"Just one bump." He gets edgy, a little defensive-not what I want or what I intended. "You said you trusted me. You know I don't get sloppy anymore."
I nod. "I know, Jeff. I just worry that a little X-"
"Can lead to more? Please, Lloyd." He kisses me. "I'm okay. Just expressive. You said I needed to be more expressive."
A point of order here: Jeff was once very expressive about things, without the need of any drug. I remember, when we lived together we'd have fights about the laundry, in which he'd kick the basket of clothes all the way down the stairs. Once, fed up with bill collectors, he tossed a ceramic dog his grandmother had given him across the room, where it shattered into a dozen pieces and left him heartbroken. I then painstakingly glued it back together for him as best I could.
Jeff never used drugs in those days. The emotion was real, heartfelt. The old Jeff used to cry over episodes of Laverne and Shirley-whenever Laverne would realize what a schmuck she'd been and how happy she really was living with Shirley in a basement apartment in Milwaukee, and then the two of them would start singing "High Hopes" as the camera panned up and out through the window. Jeff would be over there blubbering on the couch, and I was never quite sure if I wanted to laugh or cry along with him.
Then things happened. All the stuff he's been trying so hard to forget. He started doing drugs-and the nasty ones: crystal and GHB-and he shut down, reined in all those emotions. I hardly knew him. The Jeff I'd lived with for six years hadn't been afraid to let his feelings show. He might not have always known what they meant, but he let them flow.
Excerpted from WHERE THE BOYS ARE by WILLIAM J. MANN Copyright © 2003 by William J. Mann
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted April 13, 2005
Posted August 16, 2003
I had high hopes to Mann's new work. The Men from the Boys is still one of my favorite novels, but this new installment disappointed all around. I had a hard time believing that anyone would put up with a character like Eva, and Jeff's behavior made me dislike him from the very start. I found no surprises, too many cliches, and I wound up skimming the last 100 pages without much interest. From sleeping with people's best friends and ex lovers, to the circuit scene and over the top actions of an unstable fag hag, I found it very disappointing. I still look forward to Mann's next work, but leave this one on the shelf.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 8, 2003
This is one terrific well thought out book. It has been a long time since a work of fiction has touched me so deeply. Once again, William J. Mann takes his reader into the world of Jeff and Lloyd. A few years have passed since the death of their dear friend Javitz, and things have radically changed for our two 'soul mates', least of which are the people with which they share there daily lives. Where the first book, THE MEN FROM THE BOYS had a more somber desperate feel that spoke to the gay reality of its time, this new installment springs from a reality that could not have been imagined a few short years ago. This whole social upheaval is reinforced by the completely different style in which this book is written, a very interesting style indeed. Here we find a community no longer living in fear of the plague, (although the attitude is akin to ostriches burying their heads in the sand) where a whole new generation of gay men live and love without even having known someone lost to AIDS. This is the world of the cocktail and circuit parties. Young gay men treat the devastating epidemic as if it never happened. Through the pages of this intensely gratifying read, Mann addresses a multitude of issues concerning gay men and their culture. From the circuit scene to new age 'sacred-sex seminars' respect is shown to all the many faces of our community, and contempt shown for all who preach exclusivity. However the bottom line here is the relationships between the characters, all of whom struggle in their search for respect and love. I was particularly moved by the frightening yet heartbreaking story of Anthony, a young mystery man, met at a New Years party. Here is a tale that speaks volumes about repressed emotions, and the constantly changing attitudes of the gay community. Mann has his finger squarely on the pulse of our times, seamlessly balancing characters and situations from three different generations, and keeping it all, stunningly believable. I am incredibly impressed!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2003
An ambitious sequel of sorts to his 1997 novel 'The Men From The Boys', Mann's new novel can likeiwse be considered a 'coming of age' story, this time of a group of gay men becoming disillusioned with the 'circuit party' life and looking to settle down. Having not read the original should not deter readers from this one (I hardly remember the first book, and it didn't matter.) The story alternates narration by three main characters, including 30-something Jeff and Lloyd from the first book, who are no longer a couple and have tried to reinvent their lives with money inherited by their former mentor/lover Javitz. Jeff has become a regular at 'circuit' parties, and takes in a 29 year old hunk who seems surprisingly naive about gay life. The nore conservative Lloyd is in the process of opening a bed-and-breakfast inn in Provincetown along with a widowed woman around his age who seems to enjoy the company of gay men. But Jeff and Lloyd are still in love, and bond somewhat in trying to uncover the mysterious pasts of their new partners. The third narrator is Henry, a formerly-nebbish younger man to whom Jeff has become sort of a mentor, and under whose encouragement has morphed into a gym bunny who gets off on the attention his new body commands, and decides to moonlight as a male escort. This lengthy (426 page) book is fleshed out with colorful additional characters (gay, lesbian and straight), stuffed with campy references, catty remarks, circuit happenings, accurate commentary on the changing attitudes concerning AIDS, and references to recent events. Thought provoking, entertaining and original, very satisfying reading.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 5, 2010
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