Tag Archives: Lawrence Schimel

Sensual Travels – Michael Luongo, ed. (Bruno Gmunder)

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For me, one of the most basic enjoyments of the travel experience is the sampling of the sexual landscape. It ranks right up there with food, architecture, and natural wonders. At times, it’s all three rolled into one. And like good sex (or sex of any kind, really), travel is ephemeral. It’s only alive for the moment you’re there. Once you’re gone, it’s gone; the pictures and journals can only bring back an echo of the experience. But thankfully, Michael Luongo has brought together some of the finest gay and bi writers to echo their journeys for you in Sensual Travels.

As Luongo states in his introduction, the sex in this book is almost “Clintonian,” not as much about the old in and out as it is ancillary acts–nuance and possibility–which is only fitting given the sexually repressive atmospheres some of these stories take place in. But no matter the quotient of sexual heat, these tales manage to convey the excitement and sense of discovery that accompanies playing away from home.

That quotient is high in Lawrence Schimel’s “Water Taxi,” which sees a voyeuristic Spanish encounter taking place on the a dock in front of a gaggle of men gathered for Gay Pride and also pretty hot in Jeff Mann’s “Bondage Tape in Budapest,” which has appeared in another collection of Mann’s essays. These two stories are also related by the fact that the protagonists’ partners are also along for the ride. Schimel’s experience is more positive, but Mann’s carries a hint of problem, thereby increasing the danger and, perhaps, the allure of his interlude with Tibor. Simon Sheppard’s Ecuadorian romp, “The Last Bus to Riobamba” also features his long term partner, but this sex is all fantasy and no reality. Still, Sheppard both educates and titillates while retaining that air of mystery.

The aforementioned danger is not far behind in many other entries here. Trebor Healey’s brilliant “The Cervantino Baby,” featuring an affair with a Mexican boy that gets Healey tossed out of the household he’s staying at to improve his Spanish. His frankness about desire, reprisal, and consequence is personal and universal, and his musings are wholly in line with the expectations raised by Healey’s other work. This was one of my favorite pieces here, as was Felice Picano’s “A Gaijin in Gay Japan,” where Picano and his traveling companion, Dr. Charles Silverstein, undertake a publicity tour of Japan. Insightful in terms of Japanese culture as well as its sexual mores, this is Picano at his finest.

Any sex travel book worth its salt has to feature a trip to Thailand, and Alan Hahn does the honors here in “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show: How Not to be a Sex Tourist in Bangkok,” which is not only witty and engaging, but also deals–however tangentially–with the aftermath of vacation and facing one’s daily routine. Asian culture is also central to David C. Muller’s “You Want, I Come,” which contains a missing ATM card and a very willing guide to the city.

But no matter if it’s the Croatian men in Dominic Ambrose’s “Croatian Heat,” the Aussie beach escapade of Dallas Angguish’s “Sleep,” or Jim Nawrocki’s Parisian escapade in “The City of a Thousand Steeples,” you’ll find something in this collection that will send you scurrying to Travelocity.com to plan your next vacation. Or rescheduling the one currently on the horizon.

Happy traveling!

©  2013  Jerry L. Wheeler

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Anything for a Dollar – Todd Gregory, ed. (Bold Strokes Books)

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As Todd Gregory also admits in his introduction to this volume of erotica about men paid for sex, I have been paid for my body as well. These days, however, the only way I could make any substantial money is if I charged by the pound. Still, there was a time when I was younger, cuter, and braver and my rent needed to be paid. I’m not ashamed of it. As I first heard from Modern English, it’s all part of “life’s rich tapestry.” And that tapestry has many threads, as evidenced by the variety of stories in  Anything for a Dollar.

The collection starts off strong with Max Thomas’s atmospheric, “In the Studio,” about a college student who starts off modeling to make a bit of cash (sounds familiar to me) but soon becomes engaged in both the situation and the sex. A longish story, it’s the perfect introduction as it really encapsulates what the book is about. But then we veer off into some rather unexpected territory.

Aaron Travis’s “The Adventure of the Rugged Youth” is a neat piece of Sherlock Holmes fanfic that wouldn’t have been out of place in Lethe Press’s recent A Study in Lavender as Holmes encounters a boy paid to seduce and kill Holmes in his sleep. Yet another reason not to let tricks stay over. Jay Starre takes to South America with his stripper story, “Private Dance in Rio,” one of two Starre entries here. More domestic but far stranger is Jeffrey Ricker’s “The Last Good-Bye,” which features a psychic sexual surrogate helping a man work through his grief for his late partner in a rather startling way.

Jeff Mann enters the fray with his hot tale of  a country boy’s paid lust for a blond businessman named Bjorn in “Penthouse,” which also (true to Mann’s form) contains some irresistable descriptions of several New Orelans feasts. Oh, and people get tied up as well. Davem Verne takes back to the subject of modeling with his story of Eurotrash posers, “Paris Euros Giles,”  but Rob Rosen prevents things from becoming too Eurocentric with “Revenge of the 97-Pound Weakling,” his delightful tale of a gymrat contest judge. Nathan Sims has a more supernatural take on the subject in “Haven’s Rest,” which sees a boy helping rid a backwoods ex-gay ministry of a particularly evil spirit.

Haley Walsh’s “Marked” takes me closer to familiar territory as he focuses in on the carnival life with a story of a tattooed man and an itinerant stud he calls Pink Boy, but as visitors to New York City know, the urban environment has its own charms. One of those is the subway, but Luke Oliver takes that rather prosaic setting and turns it into something…well, super with a capital “S” on its chest in “The Conductor.” William Holden gives us a historical perspective in “Debtors’ Prison,” and the inimitable Dale Chase rouses us once more with a tale of a Western rent boy with “A Few Dollars More.” We’ve all seen ugly hustlers and wondered how they were able to make a buck, and Lawrence Schimel enlightens us with his “Pity Fuck.” And then there’s Todd Gregory’s title story to wrap things up.

A word about availability. This title isn’t out until October 1st. Being a reviewer, I often receive advance copies of books. I try as much as possible to review them close to their release dates, but I was so anxious to dive into this collection that I paid no attention to the date and, thus, am reviewing it a bit early. But either of the above links will allow you to pre-order this terrific compendium of erotica, so feel free to do so.

It’s delayed gratification of the best kind.

©  2013  Jerry L. Wheeler

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Summer Poetry Roundup

On the Midnight Stage/High Ground Valley Flashback – Walter Beck (Writing Knights Press)

Dialectic of the Flesh – Roz Kaveney (A Midsummer Night’s Press)

Deleted Names – Lawrence Schimel (A Midsummer Night’s Press)

Fortunate Light – David Bergman (A Midsummer Night’s Press)

What happened to the Spring Poetry Roundup, you ask? Time got away from me, I finished my novel, I started an editing business, we moved the blog — shit, as they say, happened. So, my apologies to Walter Beck and Lawrence Schimel who sent these pieces to me a long time ago. The length of time between when they came out and when this review appears, however, has nothing to do with their quality. And there is some quality here, indeed.

4009-MIDNIGHT-STAGE_zps59e50f58First up is a two-fer from Walter Beck, On the Midnight Stage and High Ground Valley Flashback. On the Midnight Stage contains one or two of Beck’s rare sojourns into love poetry as well as covering his well-traveled territory of late-night hipster road trips and overcaffeinated activism. The pieces in High Ground Valley Flashback are of older vintage and have appeared elsewhere. What I most admire about Beck’s work is its dogged determination to remain different, no matter how much pressure society puts him under–evidenced by his reaction to a letter sent to him by a university judiciary board calling him out for his behavior on an open mic night (“Letter ‘No Bad Publicity’ Mix”) or “Damn It All and Live,” which sees him damning a litany of societal tensions and ending with:

Let it all be damned./Let’s lay here in the early morning mood,/Still sweaty from the late night show,/tasting each other/tasting life/tasting it all/and wanting more.

Beck is young, with many more works in him, and he’ll be able to fulfill the promise he shows with each new chapbook. These are snippets, and his readers anxiously await something long form–a blanket from the bolt of genius cloth he has socked away in his closet. Buy from Writing Knights Press.

516knmqF1tL._SY300_On another end of the poetic spectrum, Roz Kaveney’s musing on queerness and the trans experience in Dialectic of the Flesh is a mixed bag of emotions. From the medicinal resentfulness of “Cunt” to the almost gleeful celebration of angst in “Annoyance” to the short yet powerful examination of empty compliments in “Privilege,” Kaveney cuts deep with some witty, well-observed truths. Her piece de resistance here, however, is “23,” which takes stock of her childhood from her young adulthood.

Your father worried over how you walked/and would not let you act in the school play/for fear that they would cast you as a girl/and make him speak aloud the thought he feared/and start to lose the boy he’d dreamed you were./And how you walked worried your father’s dreams.

Whether she is reviewing history (“Stonewall”) or musing on roles (“Drag”), Kaveney has a unique, original voice you’ll not tire of hearing. Buy from A Midsummer Night’s Press.

51UEoDi+KRL._SY300_As well as Kaveney represents the trans spectrum in Deleted Names, Lawrence Schimel rivals her in breadth and scope from the gay male perspective. From the short punchline of “The Frog Prince” to the smiling truths of “On Men’s Insecurities” to the frankness of “Call Boy,” Schimel not only poses some interesting questions but answers them. But for me, the two best pieces juxtapose form and subject to unexpected effect. Limericks are witty and fun and an extremely familiar part of the poetic landscape, even though many people don’t think of them as poetry. But when limericks turn to serious subjects such as AIDS, the effect causes you to rethink both form and function. Even though I dislike including complete pieces in reviews, I must do so with “AIDS Limerick I: Denying the End.”

These hospital visits portend/that death very soon will attend/this friend with bold face/and bear hug embrace/who begs that I please just pretend

I rarely come across a piece that fascinates me the way that does. It’s devastating. And if you pick up Deleted Names for no other reason, do so for the companion limerick. Buy from A Midsummer Night’s Press.

5123kv+Ni-L._SY300_David Bergman’s Fortunate Light does not take those kinds of chances, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less transcendent. His poems touch on universal themes of love, loss, and bittersweet remembrance. From the contented morning beauty of “Fortunate Light” to the regretful memory of “The Infinite Recession of the Object of Desire,” to the poem-within-a-painting of “John Koch, Cocktail Party, 1956,” Bergman draws you in with language devoid of obscure metaphor, its plainness reinforcing its truth. Lust is also a subject, both casual (“The Hitchhiker”) and more meaningful (“The Distractions of Beauty”). It’s the first poem, “In Nordstrom’s,” however,  that sets the tone for the collection. The simple act of communicating with a shoe salesman ends this way:

“They look good/on you,” he nods, smiling.  And for the first time/I notice all his clothes are wrong/that any clothing would be wrong on the fine/light structure of his bones that was built/only for wings. Just wings.

And Bergman’s words have wings, indeed. Buy from A Midsummer Night’s Press.

And there you have the Summer Poetry Roundup. I promise not to make you wait as long for the Fall installment, for which I have some wonderful stuff already.

Copyright 2013, Jerry L. Wheeler

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