Wandering Heart: A Gay Man's Journey: Book Two: Lost Hearts

Wandering Heart: A Gay Man's Journey: Book Two: Lost Hearts

by John Loomis MD

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462038350
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/17/2012
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

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Wandering Heart: A Gay Man's Journey

Book Two: Lost Hearts
By John Loomis

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 John Loomis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-3835-0


Chapter One

The Fourth of July 1976

"I may be falling in love," Alden said as we sat drinking coffee in the kitchen of his Connecticut house at Brookside Farm.

"Again?" I asked flippantly.

Alden, who was six two, well built, with black hair and eyes and who generally resembled Sean Connery in his Dr. No role, gave me an irritated look. He always wanted to be taken seriously when he spoke of shivers of his heart.

"I met him at the Annex Bar two weeks ago; we clicked right away, and since then we have been together four times at his apartment, just off Sutton Place. He's blond and well built, and the sex is good. He pinches and hits me too much, but I think I can break him of that without much trouble."

This was the first I'd heard of John Cooper, Alden's new lust-object.

"Would you like to meet him?" Alden asked. "We could all have dinner this Friday before he and I go to his apartment."

At the Friday dinner, I saw that John lived up to his billing. He was quite handsome and intelligent, and he seemed decisive, forceful, and sure of himself. In response to my questioning, he gradually revealed that he was a composer, had been studying with Aaron Copland, and the previous year the New York Philharmonic had premiered one of his short works. He seemed to be a rising star. I could see why Alden was attracted to him. Alden told me that John was more than a student of Aaron's; he had been his boyfriend—the intensity and duration unspecified by Alden, who also said he thought the affair was winding down.

Later that year, Alden, by then really in love, moved into John's Sutton Place apartment. John was not in love with Alden, which was a problem. He continued pinching and hitting him teasingly, sometimes going too far.

Meanwhile, Alden and his lover Rolf had a country home in Connecticut where Rolf lived full-time. So far, the triangle was manageable.

As time progressed, I saw John at many dinners, and sometimes his mentor, Aaron Copland, was present. Aaron and I talked freely; I liked him, as he was not only enormously interesting musically, but intelligent, kind, and open in his conversation. It also didn't hurt that he seemed to like me. In talking about music, he told me that the most original new music he had heard in the past ten years was the player-piano music written by Conlon Nancarrow, the Texarkana composer living in Mexico City.

I learned from John that Aaron was sensitive about his very plain appearance, feeling it was a tragedy that he was not better looking. In the gay world, physical beauty is one of the most important assets. But considering his fame, accomplishments, charm, and intelligence, Aaron's attitude was a surprise to me.

When he first went to Paris in the 1920s, Aaron had met Saint-Saëns, who had known Chopin and every important musician of the prior seventy years. Saint-Saëns was also known for making aggressive and successful passes at all the young men who were referred to him. Open, Sesame! I hoped he had liked Aaron's appearance enough to have done this. I assumed so but didn't ask, even when Aaron casually mentioned meeting Saint-Saëns.

Aaron didn't let his feelings of plainness make him retreat from the world. He could be assertive. As president of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), part of his job was to actively pursue performers and organizations who did not pay the proper royalties, and he could get tough.

One evening in the spring of 1976, Alden, his friend Rolf, Aaron, and I were all having dinner on the terrace of Alden's Danbury house, Brookside Farm. John Cooper had declined the invitation and stayed in New York that weekend.

The subject of the US bicentennial came up. Aaron said that there was going to be a big celebration on the Fourth of July in Danbury: the American Symphony Orchestra was going to perform under the direction of Jose Serebrier. Aaron would conduct one of his pieces ("Rodeo"), Leonard Bernstein would conduct one of his own (maybe something from West Side Story), and Serebrier would conduct the rest of the concert, including Charles Ives's "Three Places in New England."

"I hope you can all attend the concert as my guests, and maybe we can have dinner before," Aaron said.

Alden, Rolf, and I all jumped at the invitation. "Oh, yes!" we said almost in unison.

The whole country was getting excited about the approaching bicentennial celebration. Parties and festivities were planned everywhere.

On the evening of July 3, Alden, Rolf, Aaron, Leonard Bernstein, Lenny's new young and handsome male assistant, and I had a gala dinner at a local Italian restaurant in Danbury. The conversation was lively, happy, and mostly about musical matters.

Leonard Bernstein, an old friend of Aaron's, was by then in his late fifties. He was a large, handsome man with a leonine face and a well-formed chin, and he radiated sexual energy. He was very self-assured, almost grand, but not pompous or arrogant. As he talked, I recalled the rumor of how he got his position as conductor of the New York Philharmonic. I'd heard he had reported his mentor and predecessor conductor, Dimitri Mitropoulos, to the symphony board for having been arrested during sexual activity with another male in a public restroom. This caused the board to fire Mitropoulos. Three guesses who succeeded him. These facts have never been widely known.

But recently Bernstein had been in the news himself when a previous young live-in "assistant," a handsome ex-marine who had only been working for him for about two weeks, had stolen his car and fled the state. The marine was soon apprehended. The newspapers didn't publish much information about him, such as what assistance he had been rendering or why he had stolen the car. I was not very sympathetic with Lenny about this, but later on in my own life, I came to understand firsthand how painful and poignant such events could be. Naturally, neither of these peccadilloes was mentioned at the preconcert dinner, which was cheerful with much animated conversation. Love can be a cruel master—so can lust.

The next afternoon (the Fourth of July) was a beautiful, clear summer day, and the concert took place on the grounds of the Danbury State Fair. The performances were magnificent, and the event was widely noted. It was too bad that Charles Ives, who had lived only about a mile away, was not still alive to attend the performance. He'd heard very few performances of his own works during his lifetime and would have been pleased. The evening concluded with a brilliant fireworks display.

After the concert, Aaron gave me the name of a young friend, a former boyfriend who lived in Houston, and suggested I call him the next time I was there. When I was in Houston on business the following month, I called and was happy to meet another young, handsome, well-built, blond composer. I went to dinner with him and his current friend once, but nothing more resulted.

In the fall of that year, Aaron came to Houston to conduct the symphony in a performance of his clarinet concerto. I was pleased to give a party in his honor, and my aunt and uncle acted as hosts at their house. About fifty people from the Houston musical, business, and social communities were invited. All were pleased to meet the famous guest of honor, and I think Aaron enjoyed the party. Afterward, I drove him back to his hotel. The next evening my aunt and I attended the concert, and we were both fascinated to watch this great modern master conduct his own works.

I saw Aaron twice more at Alden's house, but then he entered a period of decline, and I did not see him again before he died in 1990. He was a prince and a treasure; he helped many young composers to start or advance their careers. I cherish his memory.

I never saw Leonard Bernstein again, and Alden and Rolf are gone. I still occasionally meet John Cooper on the street, because we live in the same neighborhood, and we usually stop for a short chat. I stand back so he can't pinch or hit me.

I love the long shadows of the past.

Chapter Two

The Last Drink

During the past ten years, my life had become increasingly busy and complicated. In addition to my psychiatric practice in New York, I was on the faculty of a medical school and on the staff of one of New York's leading hospitals. An ominous lawsuit with the IRS was pending in federal tax court, and it was time consuming to search out all the old supporting records.

In addition to all this, I was still running the oil field service business based in Texas, a legacy from my parents. The business was growing and becoming more complicated to manage and required business trips to Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina, as well as continual driving trips through the Gulf Coast states where the business had twenty or so regional offices. Financial reports, business propositions, contracts, personnel problems, and patent matters needed careful review, sometimes almost daily.

I also had a new, exciting, and handsome lover, Ray, who lived in Houston. At the same time, I was socially active and sexually promiscuous in New York, all the while drinking far too much.

Knowledge of the family tendency toward alcoholism didn't warn me of trouble ahead. Seeing Aunt Nellie rolling on the floor screaming with alcoholic hallucinations didn't warn me. Seeing her coming home in the morning wearing nothing under her fur coat and claiming not to remember where she had spent the night didn't serve as a caution to me. Seeing my mother, dead from her alcoholism, lying on a table in the Houston morgue, didn't deter me. My medical and psychiatric training, seeing what was happening to my alcoholic friends, working with alcoholics in my practice, and knowing something about Alcoholics Anonymous—none of these things provided me any armor against the development of my own alcoholism. It can't affect me, I told myself. I'll be careful, and nothing bad will happen to me.

I had always enjoyed drinking and had the "hollow leg" so often seen in alcoholics. At first, the drinking was only on weekends, but then one or two more nights per week were added. Hangovers became a frequent occurrence.

During Labor Day weekend in 1967, John, my partner of ten years, who was also an active alcoholic, suddenly and unexpectedly left me. I knew this separation was probably for the best, but the shock and pain were intense. Alcohol helped ease this pain, and it was then that the daily drinking started. The quantity of alcohol I consumed increased, and soon I was drinking a minimum of a quart of gin every evening, sometimes adding beer and stingers if I went out to the bars or wine if I went out to dinner.

I only drank after I finished my office hours—never in the morning, during the day, or before seeing patients. I truly think my drinking did not affect my professional behavior or judgment. I didn't encounter any legal problems, arrests, or accidents connected with my drinking (aside from a minor traffic accident).

After a few years of my daily drinking, I began experiencing an alcoholic blackout every night and never remembered how I got home. I couldn't have cared less. (A blackout is an episode while drinking in which there is little or no memory of the events taking place, while at the same time the drinker appears relatively unaffected: walking, talking, and appearing normal.) Occasionally I would bring home other drunks who were generally indifferent sex partners and who occasionally robbed me, vomited on the floor or in the bed, or were variously disagreeable. I didn't care. I behaved in other dissipated ways and fancied myself to be a "scarlet man"—in my mind, the masculine equivalent of a "scarlet woman."

Every morning I had a bad hangover, featuring a pounding headache, shaking hands, and extreme anxiety, which I assumed was the price for having a good time the night before. A ten-milligram Librium would quiet the hands, although it didn't have much psychological antianxiety effect. By noon the hangover symptoms subsided. Fortunately, I didn't develop a Librium addiction.

I attended to various business matters in the mornings. Starting my workday at the office by noon or one o'clock, I would promise myself not to drink that evening. But after work, usually eight or nine o'clock, I would think that just one drink wouldn't hurt. That led to a second drink. I would spend the rest of the evening watching Queen Victoria smile at me from the label of the Bombay gin bottle. Her Majesty and I became quite familiar, and even now I think of her with a wan smile.

I would continue drinking until I reached a magical click and had a change of consciousness—for the better, I thought. Lifelong feelings of self-loathing and of being unlovable, ugly, and evil faded away, and I seemed to myself like an ordinary person for a few hours.

Whenever my workload became unbearably heavy, I would realize I needed to increase my efficiency. So I would stop drinking for a period of two weeks to two months, sometimes taking Antabuse to strengthen my resolve. I always planned this abstinence to be temporary. The timing for my reunion with Queen Victoria depended on my mood at the moment. When my work became more orderly and manageable and I felt better, I would begin to drink again, thinking I could now drink in a more moderate and controlled way.

Once I had started again, the drinking would gradually creep up to its former level. Each time I resumed, the creeping became faster: first a walk, then a trot, finally a gallop.

In March 1977, when I was forty-three, I finally had to acknowledge that my drinking was out of control and causing me serious misery. I was nauseated and had pounding headaches almost every morning, frequent episodes of anxiety, and shaking hands. Perhaps my psychiatric training and experience helped me to recognize what was happening to me. I came to suspect that a temporary abstinence might not be adequate. Maybe I had become an alcoholic, like my mother, my aunt, and several other family members. But I didn't care—until my drinking was finally ruined, which happened two months later.

Early in January 1977, I began one of these periods of therapeutic abstinence and soon experienced the usual benefits: increased concentration, clarity of thinking, and efficiency.

In mid-February, I went with a group of medical school alumni and faculty, including my friend Alden, the psychiatrist who shared my office, to Egypt for a two-week tour of Egyptian medical facilities. We also saw the usual tourist sights. Alden was not very interested in sightseeing; instead, he preferred to study the Bible while we were driving through Cairo or Luxor, because he was busy preparing for the priesthood.

I was resolute about not drinking. Most of the doctors in the group drank very little, and drinking was not prominent in the Egyptian culture.

Doctors in various medical fields have certain stereotypical views of doctors in other fields. It seemed to me that psychiatrists were often on the bottom of the prestige ladder. Many surgeons had a dim view of psychiatrists, seeing them as know-nothings who just sat around having a prolonged tea party with their patients.

One of the most prominent surgeons at New York Hospital, a particularly arrogant and condescending man, was on the tour with his adolescent son, who was no more agreeable than his father.

While we were in Cairo, this doctor came into the dining room just before lunch one day. Frantic, he said, almost shouting, "My son has come down with polio. He's terrified and writhing uncontrollably." All of us immediately went to see the boy, hoping we could be of help. He had involuntary and uncontrollable twisting motions of his trunk, arms, legs, and neck, and from time to time, he would roll his eyes upward and stick his tongue out. He could not control his eyes or get his tongue back in his mouth. The son seemed as terrified as the father. When Alden and I were at last able to get the father's irritated attention, we asked if the son was taking any medicines.

"No," he said. But after a moment, he added, "He was vomiting earlier in the day, and I gave him a Compazine suppository, which controlled the vomiting." Alden and I looked at each other.

I said, "These dystonic, writhing movements are a side effect of that medicine."

Dr. Smug looked at us with surprise and asked, "Can it be fatal? Is it permanent? Will it get worse? Or maybe he has come down with some rare Egyptian disease. Do we need to get an iron lung for him?"

"It's temporary and will not get worse. It can be stopped promptly by antihistamines, such as Benadryl. An iron lung will not be necessary," I replied.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Wandering Heart: A Gay Man's Journey by John Loomis Copyright © 2012 by John Loomis. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface....................xiii
The Fourth of July....................1
The Last Drink....................5
A New Direction....................16
Closing the Practice....................18
Dog Friends....................21
Car Cruising....................22
How Did I Get Here?....................26
More About....................28
Ray....................30
Revelations....................35
Moving On....................38
The Golden Age of Sexual Promiscuity....................40
Neighborhood Treasures, or Ali Baba's Caves....................43
Meeting Hustlers....................45
Tom....................48
Thugs....................53
Bob, the Bridge Player....................55
The Moon Rises and Stars Twirl....................60
The Golden Moment....................65
An Evil Angel Appears....................69
Getting Better Acquainted....................73
The Invitation....................79
Los Angeles....................81
Homer....................85
Angel Dust....................88
Malibu....................91
Ensenada....................95
Briefcase Lost and Found....................100
Western Union....................102
Bail....................104
Return to New York....................107
The New Suit....................111
Studio....................114
In the Sunlight....................118
Our Routine....................119
Elze....................120
Rover and Delilah....................124
Sociopathy....................126
Roadside....................128
Burglaries....................134
Alicia....................136
I Relapse Smoking....................138
Teddy....................140
Los Angeles County Jail....................142
Watts....................147
Bert's Gratitude....................149
Gwen....................150
Plans....................152
San Diego....................154
London....................156
Santa Fe....................160
Europe....................163
Drugs....................175
Move to New York....................181
Maria, a Poisonous Snake, Appears....................183
El Quijote....................187
A Brassiere on the Air Conditioner or The Invasion of the Poisonous Snake....................188
Random Motion....................191
The Southern Trip....................194
The Lamborghini....................202
A Frightening Threat....................203
Audra and Jim....................205
New Orleans....................207
Rio....................211
A Drive in the Country....................220
Jail Again....................223
The Diverted Refund....................224
Rio Again, Solo....................226
Bad Kids in New York Again....................228
Dinner Party....................230
More Low Jinks....................232
Audra....................234
Sophisticated Evening Activities....................236
Freedom Institute....................238
More Arrests....................241
More Visits to Roadside....................243
Surgery....................245
Recuperating at Home....................249
I Kick Bert Out....................251
The Lovelorns....................257
Running from Misery....................259
Rome....................261
New Delhi....................263
Calcutta (Kolkatta)....................265
The Home for the Destitute Dying....................267
A Troubling Phone Call....................272
Leaving Calcutta....................274
Hope Springs Infernal....................276
Bangkok....................277
Bert Again....................280
Hong Kong....................286
Honolulu....................289
Dallas....................292
New York....................293
Relapse with Bert....................295
Return to Rio....................297
New York Again....................299
Gwen Leaves....................302
Bert Leaves....................303
The Bombshell....................306
The Investigation....................311
I Couldn't Go On....................315

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