Sunday, January 13, 2019

391. Must Gays Hate Straights?

The Eye That Never Sleeps

Here it is – my new novel!

 The Eye That Never Sleeps eimage.jpg

Did you ever have a friend who at times acted like your enemy, or an enemy who at times became your friend?  The Eye That Never Sleeps tells the story of just such a friendship.  The fourth title in my Metropolis series of historical novels set in nineteenth-century New York, it will be released on May 2.

Hired by the city’s bankers to track down and apprehend the thief who is plundering their banks, private detective Sheldon Minick develops a friendship with his chief suspect, Nicholas Hale, an elegant young man-about-town who is in every way the sober Methodist detective’s opposite. They agree to a truce and undertake each to show the other the city that he knows and values.  Further adventures follow, including a cancan, a gore-splattered slaughterhouse, and a brothel with leap-frogging whores.  But when the truce ends, the inevitable finale comes in the dark midnight vaults of a bank.

This is not a standard detective story.  Sheldon Minick is a bit scared of women, wears elevator heels to add to his height, and loves to belt out Methodist hymns at church (though he leaves the praying to his wife).  He is fascinated by Nicholas Hale, who is young, dapper, free-spending -- a risk-taker, deft with women, bisexual.

Available now only from the publisher, Black Rose Writing. 

15% discount from the retail price ($18.95), if you pre-order now. The book will be shipped on May 2.  For my other books, see BROWDERBOOKS below, following the post.

Must Gays Hate Straights?

         My partner Bob kept a journal throughout much of his life.  He wrote in it sometimes at home or at work, but most often while sitting for an hour or more – in a favorite Chinese restaurant whose well-tipped staff knew to leave him alone while he did so.  He was, after all, their best customer, and a friend of the owner and waiters and waitresses, whom he knew by name and gladdened with gifts at Christmas.  And if he arrived to find his favorite table occupied by other patrons, the embarrassed staff would be in a state of consternation, until reassured by him that he could take another table. 

         On quiet evenings Bob would scribble away while downing up to four Manhattans, which reminds me of an old saying that I just invented (really, adapted): “One Manhattan, two Manhattans, three Manhattans, floor.”  Bob never made it to the floor, but the writing in the journal got bigger and bigger, and sloppier and sloppier, often ending in outsized letters with the one word “Dick.”  And who was Dick?  An old lover enshrined in memory, whose brief and bumpy relationship with Bob had ended with a bang.  (Not a gunshot, just an emphatic suggestion that Bob get lost.)  How memory – with the help of alcohol – beautifies the ugly, smooths out the rough, and turns pain into pleasure!  And while Bob was scribbling and imbibing, he would listen to the conversations at tables near him and record, mock, and excoriate the speakers in his journal.  Then, as evening came on, he would note the “special blue” outside – the light of falling dusk, which calmed and reassured him.  This was followed by night in Greenwich Village, a kind of scenic magic with passing cars and people lit by diamonds of light.

         The contents of his journals – all 28 of them, plus quantities of loose pages written when no journal was at hand – expressed his thoughts and feelings of the moment, whether socially acceptable or not.  At one point early in the game, he went back and cut out the names of people he had mentioned, but then he stopped doing so, and let the first names or full names stand.  For this reason, I feel I shouldn't publish extracts containing the names of people still alive.  But many other passages, having no names, can appear without offending individuals.  Should these extracts be made public?  Yes, I think so.  In the journals Bob often expresses the hope that sometime in the future someone will read his journals and see their worth.  He acknowledges exaggerations, redundancies, and inconsistencies, but insists on his honesty, his truth to who he is.  And he spent large sums of money (in one case, $25, and in another, $35) on well-bound, beautifully formatted volumes, with blank pages guaranteed to last 300 years.  So he wanted his journals to endure and be read, and this, I think, justifies my now publishing carefully chosen extracts.  

          The journals are at least three things: an archive of gay history, including his personal experiences; an account of Coney Island, which he visited over many years and loved; and an account of New York City's cultural life -- his personal appraisal of countless ballets, plays, concerts, and operas.  Here, I will focus on the first, which I think the most revealing ... and shocking.  What follows are passages from the 1980s, when his favorite restaurant was the Hunan Spring, at the corner of West 11th and Hudson Streets, just a block from our building.  There, among other things, he scribbled his favorite hates.  

Straight Men

         At the Hunan Spring, 7 p.m., February 3, 1987: 

I believe I’m becoming quite hostile towards the majority of straight men.  I loathe the stink of them, the sight of them.  I most detest the pretentiousness, all of it.  It not only stinks, it supports the carrion of endless unhappiness and despair.        

         And again at the Hunan Spring, September 6, 1989:

Adjacent table: an outrageously loud macho guy proclaiming, “It’s better to beat the shit out of the guy.  I don’t go for the brooding shit, that’s too feminine.”  He certainly has been remarkably well-instructed by our great American society.  He has much to live for, the poor idiot.

         And in a letter to a woman friend dated May 1, 1985, of which he kept a copy:

By the way, why do most so-called straight men deny that they ever cry or worry or occasionally go through hell because of Mommy or other emotional dilemmas?  Maybe that’s why a lot of us gays refer to women when we speak of our experience, especially Hollywood women.  Types of women.  Because we identify.  It’s, sure, a little camp, but the guts of truth are inherent.  People have feelings, men included.  I hate those straight men who reject tears, sentiment, and genuine feelings.

          In a diary entry dated August 29, 1983, he explains how this antipathy developed.

There has been a change in me.  In 1977, at the start of this journal, I was not overly concerned about straight attitudes or the various straight-controlled situations lived through on a daily basis.  Now, six years later, age and events have contrived to turn me bitter.  I see, as though for the first time, the inequity of life, even here in New York.  Straight couples embracing / kissing on the street, the exploitation of family life in advertising and everywhere else, the recent loud damnation of gays because of the AIDS crisis – wow, small wonder I don’t become insane!

 Gay Men

        Not that he spared the gay crowd.  Here is an extract from his entry at the Hunan Spring for the evening of July 1, 1987:

Adjacent to me, at a table I often occupy in the corner, are two gay guys.  One is very taciturn.  The other is knowledgeable and young and, hmm, quite glib.  Shall I call him “X”?  Well, X is now speaking at length of an obscure gay bar in Hyannis, pointing out that it closes “early” and that “that’s good.”  He is now talking about someone he met recently, someone who is “unattractive, not “good-looking” ---  “X” repeats, “He is not attractive,” as though there is nothing  more  important.  The redundance is unnerving.  The attitude – oh, baby – that stinks.  The voice of “X” – pretty, aloof, so willing to give advice -- He talks about “relinquishing any preconceived lifestyle and assuming friendship.”  If “friendship” takes place, O.K.  Otherwise, “you’re limiting yourself.”  Eeek!

         Preparing to go home, Bob adds that X’s assumptions are “utter bullshit, shallow, and misleading.”  He would like to shout at him one word: Ideals! 

         “X” abdicates, minimizes, and, subtly, satirizes everything.  Smugness.  Hauteur.  Disdain.  He must surely be disgusted with himself in private.  His youth means nothing.  His assumptions imply everything.  It is all a sham. 

         Mercifully, X had no idea of the impression he was making on the discreet observer at a nearby table.  Bob’s victims rarely did.


          Families, the very epitome of straightness, also drew his ire.  At the Hunan Spring, 7  p.m., April 13, 1987
Six slices of orange before me, along with the remainder of my “final”    Manhattan.  And tea.  --  Behind me, a “family,” the Mama, Papa, and garrulously loud “child.”  Ugh: -- To my oranges.  For now.

         In his entries, children were not spared.  At the Hunan Spring, April 4, 1990:

Two totally obnoxious shitty brats have aggrandized a certain amount of the last hour.  Did I ever aver, definitively, that I loathe undisciplined progeny?  I abhor them.  I spit on them, including the inane, indifferent parents, and throw the entire spuming, madly-disrupting lot into a meat-grinder .  Really, fuck them all!

The Elderly

         Though his pronouncements were often aimed at the young, Bob  didn’t spare the elderly.  Consider his entry, again at the Hunan Spring, for April 15, 1987, when Bob was anticipating the ripe old age of 50:

Table adjacent has an older friend-couple – tiresome – truly ancient old creatures – where there is nothing sensitive or intelligent to talk about.  The words are sheer pap, meaningless – and, oh, how important they make it seem!  I am thoroughly disgusted with fools!  The conversation moves along utterly bland lines, and it dissolves into a wretched BATHOS.  What a waste!!!  Waste, waste!!!  The old fools, damn them.  --  My last thought: Where are the intelligent folk?  The world is replete with idiots.

His beloved restaurant could offer him refuge from the challenges of the day, serve him good Chinese food and multiple Manhattans, and soothe him with views of his “special blue” of twilight, but it couldn’t keep out fools.

         There’s a point at which his denigrations achieve a savage grandeur laced with barbs of humor.  But when we were together and I got whiffs of these sentiments – never so intense as in his diaries – I took exception, insisting that not all straight people – the great majority of humans – merited such hate.  He made some concessions: it was straight men, not straight women, that he hated; among straight women he had many friends.  And it wasn’t all straight men, but primarily the super macho types -- loud, insensitive, presumptuous -- and in that regard I had to agree they were obnoxious.  My solution was simply to put as much space as possible between them and myself, but for Bob it wasn’t so easy.  Like many gay men, from an early age he had been called “sissy” by the macho types at school, and it stung.  Behind his rage was pain.

At Work

         This problem could pursue him even at work, where he was very much the professional librarian, and the perpetrators weren’t always macho males.  Once he received a call from a woman with the outfit responsible for the library’s burglar-alarm system, who wanted to make sure the system was operating.  When he transferred the call to the appropriate staff member, he heard the woman say to someone, “He sounds as gay as they come,” unaware that Bob was still on the line.

Scorn, hatred, homophobia  -- all was in the words.  I cut in and, deliberately lowering the timbre of my voice, I stated that I’d hang on until the connection was made.  I should’ve commented directly and with sharpness on her denigrating words.  The insulting low-class bitch!

The memory of that phone call, coming just at the end of the day, haunted him afterward, as he dined at the Hunan Spring, where "my inward hostility towards mindless straights emerged.”  His imagination, he adds, was stirred in the direction of vengeance: “Very sad.”  (Hunan Spring, April 6, 1990.)

         In this instance, I can hardly blame him.  And the woman, in speaking of “as gay as they come,” betrayed her total ignorance.  If she ever came face to face with “as gay as they come” -- maybe a drag queen in garb from outer space -- she’d run shrieking from the scene.

         Which reminds me of an incident of my own.  Waiting in the office of an ophthalmologist I was seeing for the first time, I once heard a woman who had just seen the doctor say with indignation to her husband, “A lady wants to be treated like a lady.  What is he?  A goddam homosexual?”  I felt like telling her that her remark was that of a brainless idiot.  Most gay men treat women with respect and often form lifelong friendships with them.  But of course I kept my mouth shut, and when I saw the ophthalmologist, I grasped the problem at once.  Far from being gay, he was a heterosexual robot, tight-lipped and devoid of personality, who treated his patients like machinery that needed to be examined and repaired.  (Needless to say, I never went back to him.)  I wasn’t enraged by the incident, since the woman’s comment wasn’t aimed at me.  But these are the kind of remarks that gay people endured on a daily basis, and in Bob’s case they fueled the fire of his anger. 

         If Bob's diatribes against the straight world, often seasoned with four-letter words, offend you, wait till you hear him on the subject of religion in general and Catholicism in particular, another attitude that I could understand but not condone.

Coming soon: Must Gays Hate Catholicism?


All books are available online as indicated, or from the author.

1.  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015).  Winner of the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  All about anything and everything New York: alcoholics, abortionists, greenmarkets, Occupy Wall Street, the Gay Pride Parade, my mugging in Central Park, peyote visions, and an artist who made art of a blackened human toe.  

If you love the city (or hate it), this may be the book for you. An award winner, it sold well at BookCon 2017 and 2018, and at the Brooklyn Book Festival 2018.


"If you want wonderful inside tales about New York, this is the book for you.  Cliff Browder has a way with his writing that makes the city I lived in for 40 plus years come alive in a new and delightful way. A refreshing view on NYC that will not disappoint."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Bill L.

"To read No Place for Normal: New York is to enter into Cliff Browder’s rich and engaging sixty years of adult life in New York. Yes, he delves back before his time – from the city’s origins to the 19th Century that Ms. Trollope and Mr. Dickens encounter to robber barons and slums that marked highs and lows of the earlier Twentieth Century. But Browder has lived such an engaged and curious life that he can’t help but cross paths with every layer and period of society. There is something Whitmanesque in his outlook."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Michael P. Hartnett.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2.  Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017), the second novel in the Metropolis series.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.

For readers who like historical fiction and a fast-moving story.


"A real yarn of a story about a lovable pickpocket who gets into trouble and has a great adventure.  A must read."  Five-star Amazon customer review by nicole w brown.

"This was a fun book.  The main character seemed like a cross between Huck Finn and a Charles Dickens character.  I would recommend this."  Four-star LibraryThing review by stephvin.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

3.  Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018), the third novel in the Metropolis series.  Adult and young adult.  A fast-moving historical novel about New York City and the slave trade, with the sights and sounds and smells of the waterfront. 

New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, he is appalled.  Determined to learn the truth, he begins an investigation that takes him into a dingy waterfront saloon, musty old maritime records that yield startling secrets, and elegant brownstone parlors that may have been furnished by the trade.  Since those once involved dread exposure, he meets denials and evasions, then threats, and a key witness is murdered.  What price must Chris pay to learn the painful truth and proclaim it?


"A lively and entertaining tale.  The writing styles, plot, pace and character development were excellent."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by BridgitDavis.

"At first the plot ... seemed a bit contrived, but I was soon swept up in the tale."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by snash.

"I am glad that I have read this book as it goes into great detail and the presentation is amazing.  The Author obviously knows his stuff."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by Moiser20.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

4.  The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series, tells the story of a respectably raised young man who chooses to become a male prostitute in late 1860s New York and falls in love with his most difficult client.

What was the gay scene like in nineteenth-century New York?   Gay romance, but women have read it and reviewed it.  (The cover illustration doesn't hurt.)


"At times amusing, gritty, heartfelt and a little sexy -- this would make a great summer read."  Four-star Amazon customer review by BobW.

"Really more of a fantasy of a 19th century gay life than any kind of historical representation of the same."  Three-star Goodreads review by Rachel.

"The detail Browder brings to this glimpse into history is only equaled by his writing of credible and interesting characters.  Highly recommended."  Five-star Goodreads review by Nan Hawthorne.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

5.  Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies (Black Rose Writing, 2018).  A collection of posts from this blog.  Short biographical sketches of people, some remembered and some forgotten, who lived or died in New York.  All kinds of wild stuff, plus some stuff that isn't quite wild but fascinating.  New York is a mecca for hustlers of every kind, some likable and some horrible, but they are never boring.

Fascinating NYers eimage.jpg


"Fascinating New Yorkers by Clifford Browder was like sitting down with a dear friend and catching up on the latest gossip and stories. Written with a flair to keep the reader turning the pages, I couldn't stop reading it and thinking about the subjects of each New Yorker. I love NYC and this book just added to the list of reasons why, a must read for those who love NYC and the people who have lived there." Five-star NetGalley review by Patty Ramirez, librarian.

"Unputdownable."  Five-star review by Dipali Sen, retired librarian.

"I felt like I was gossiping with a friend when reading this, as the author wrote about New Yorkers who are unique in one way or another. I am hoping for another book featuring more New Yorkers, as I couldn't put this down and read it in one sitting!"  Five-star NetGalley review by Cristie Underwood. 

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

©   2019   Clifford Browder   

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