There doesn't appear to be much going on in Baysville. There never really has been since it was founded in the Gold Rush days more than150 years ago. At least, that's what most of the townsfolk would have you believe. I'm here to find out for sure. Dougie Douglas, that's me. I've been criss-crossing this great land of ours digging up stories for Peeps Magazine for quite a while. You know Peeps, right? That weekly rag, full of human-interest stuff, with articles no longer than it takes the average American housewife to take an average crap in an average loo? That's right, Peeps Magazine! I get paid good money to rove around full-time, just looking for scoops. Stories that the big papers miss, and angles that Newsweek doesn't have time for. And Dougie has just found Baysville.
What's so interesting about Baysville? You might well ask! I arrived in this sleepy looking rural town just two days ago. It looks quiet. At first, it looks pretty dull, too. I get the idea that's the way folks around here want it kept. But there are stories here. I can smell them. Over in the city, just 30 miles away, they tell me that the town's name is even in question. Some people call it "Boysville", for one thing. At first, I thought it was a typographical error. But it's not. So here I am, and I'm finding out why. People here want to keep it quiet, but they also seem proud of themselves, their town, and maybe what their town is coming to represent.
Boysville seems to be an average small town of around 5,000 souls. It's got a Lake. Small one, maybe, but it's got an unusual name: "Tickle Naked Lake". Says it on the topographical maps, comes from an old Indian language, they tell me. Folks here just call it "the Lake" mostly. Some of the lakefront is private homes. Part of it is public beach and boat mooring. It's big enough for water sports of all types. There's a good-sized island in the middle, called "Pine Island". Nothing much on the island except a small camping area with it's own secluded beach.
The last group to stay on Pine Island was the local Boy Scout Troop. And there's a story there, let me tell you. Check this out, folks: Scout Troop 69. I never heard of a group of boys that embraced that particular number! This troop does. They sport a large Rainbow Flag with their Troop number emblazoned on it. When I asked the Scout leader whether he was worried that people might think they were gay, all I got for my trouble was a short bark of a laugh. This guy is named Torsten Wolfe. He's an immigrant from Germany, and he says he came here to get away from repressive sexual stereotyping in Europe. So of course I asked Torsten if he himself is gay.
"Naturlich!" was the quick response. He then went on to explain without any embarrassment at all that he was kicked out of the German Navy for being gay, but that his love of the outdoors and his knack for fixing things (plus his engineering degree) make him a natural for the post of Scout Leader as well as being the town's Mr. Fix-It. He’s also in charge of the local volunteer Fire Brigade. I asked him if any of the boys in Troop 69 had any problem with him being gay. He laughed again as he replied, "Well, a few of them are trying to get to know me more...intimately...But most of them just play amongst themselves..."
Scoutmaster Wolfe proudly pointed out that Troop 69 had left the Boy Scouts of America a couple of years ago, and voted unanimously to join an organization called, “Scouting For All”. The reason for the switch? “Simple,” replied Torsten, “Boy Scouts of America discriminate against gay youth and leaders, while ‘Scouting For All’ has left the Middle Ages and doesn’t care about the sexual orientation of its members. ALL are welcome!” More stories than Dougie can shake a stick at, folks!
Meanwhile, back at that Lake. There's a wonderful looking place to stay if you're into beach living. "Puerhaven Resort and Spa" looks to have just about anything a well-heeled traveler might ask for. . The resort is a mix of tasteful buildings and private bungalows, and the grounds are spotless and beautiful. When I checked in, the owner was very pleasant. His name is Marc, and he says the motto of Puerhaven is "As You Please". All the staff seems to be handsome young men wearing powder blue tight shorts. Not a woman in sight. When I asked Marc about this, he replied, "Why, you're right, there are no women here. Would you like one? As you please, remember!" Very accommodating. More stories lurking, I'm sure...
In fact, that's more the rule than not here in Boysville, and might be part of the reason for the slight name adjustment in the past year or two. At the local boating supply store and sailing school called "Three Sheets to the Wind", the owners are a male couple. Captain Ahab and his mate John. I asked them what their proper real names were, and they just did the mysterious smile thing and declined to comment. But they did tell me they're married, and didn't bat an eyelash. Even said they have a son. They do, and I met him. Phil is 15, says he's looking for a girlfriend, and he's cute as a button as he says he's lucky to have two Dads. Go figure. There's a story or two there!
I visited a restaurant downtown. Funny thing, it's full of young guys, too. Portuguese place, called "Lusiad's" and the bar next door is the "Bottle Bank". Neither of them looks too busy, but they both appear prosperous. Same owner for both and his name is Luis. Luis just smiles when I ask him questions about the town. Smiles and invites me to stick around and meet some of the regulars.
Last night I took a seat in the corner booth, and there was a steady stream in and out of the place. Somebody called Bubba Bancroft was in, with a gang of friends from the airline he flies for. Or owns…whatever!
Dr. Dave is a shrink, so he says, and dropped by for a beer. Another regular told me that Dr. Dave is good at helping people through all sorts of problems, and is dealing with an issue of his own. He’s adjusting to the loss of his male ex-lover after more than 12 years together. Lots of gay men all over Boystown. That seems to be the story in a nutshell! They all say that's why they're here... Dr. Dave reports that there's another shrink in town, good man named Bob. I asked him if he minded having professional competition in such a small town. Dr. Dave just snorted as he replied, "What? In this town? There are plenty of clients with plenty of interesting problems here for the both of us! No problemo!”
I met Kyle, who said he works at the local Middle School. He also coaches the local Little League team, but I didn't catch the name of the team.
Then there was Justin, who was trying to get a drink despite possibly being under-aged. He looked friendly and interesting. Also met some other guys. One called Mike said he was originally from Arkansas and had just moved here. Mike was a huge man, and I was afraid he was going to be a hulking brute type, but he turned out to be a true gentleman. Another guy introduced himself as Mario, and said he was from Texas. His swarthy good looks and flashing dark eyes showed his Latino heritage. But he said he hated mariachi music, whatever that meant. Wonder what these guys do for work?
And somebody that everybody called 'Craigers' spent the evening trying to pick up one of the cute waiters. He was looking like he might get lucky sometime soon, and I can't wait to hear the end of that story. Craigers is a real eager beaver type, enthusiastic about everything, and his relentless positivity makes him sparkle with life. He didn’t even mind the running jokes about his preppy clothes and horn-rimmed glasses.
There was a guy in who said he owns the town garage and gas station, called, “Luggy’s Place”. Made lots of jokes about rear-end repairs, lube jobs, and front-end work. Nice guy; the name on his work shirt told me that he is called Geoff.
The town sheriff was in, checking things and having a drink with his friend Judge Richard Bondi. The Sheriff said his name is Rich Restless. Looked friendly, but he asked me why I was asking a lot of questions. I initially thought I should watch out for Rich. He seems protective of his little town, so I said I'd behave. His response was a little odd, I thought, when he replied, "Oh, that's too bad..." I wonder what he meant by that?
I dropped by the local newspaper office. Nice little weekly, called "Whispering Pines". I heard that the owner's name is Lee Subborn, but he was out on a story, same as me. I'll try to get back to him later, and that should be interesting. I never met a deaf, gay newspaper editor before. They say he can read lips across crowded rooms! This town is full of stories.
I visited Town Hall, and spoke briefly with the Mayor, the Hon. Donald Eggland. Hizzoner just laughed when I asked if anybody ever poked fun at him for his name. "No, there are plenty of other things in my life to poke at, my name just goes along with everything else, really." He seems good-natured enough, but evasive. When I asked him about the "Baysville/Boysville" issue, he simply said that in this town, everybody is welcome. "Everybody, especially if they might not be so welcome elsewhere." His law firm partner agreed, and Mr. Joshua McDuff, Esq. looked like a jolly fellow despite his serious profession.
There's a country music star with a huge estate just outside of town. Everybody in that world already knows that “Willie Lee” is gay as a goose, so that’s no big news. But he said that he moved here because it's gay-friendly, and that might bear further scrutiny. He was seen down at Lusiad's restaurant the other day with Dewey Arnold. Now Mr. Arnold is an interesting guy. He's the Head Teacher at the High School near-by, and is said to be the one adult that lots of the students will trust when the chips are down. Seems that Mr. Arnold wants to start a new school right here in Boysville. It wouldn't be your ordinary run of the mill school, either. He reports that Willie Lee will fund the school if it will specialize in education for gay and bisexual teens that have had trouble at other schools, and wants to name the school after Harvey Milk. You know, the gay city councilman in San Francisco, gunned down by a homophobic policeman back in the late 1970's. So the Harvey Milk School might be open for boarders and day students both, any week now. More stories!
Back in the Town Square, I took a look around. The Grace Baptist Church is freshly painted, and the signboard out front with the weekly announcements says that this Sunday's service is at 10:00AM, and this week's sermon title is, "Sin Abounds! Repent and Live Forever! Persist in evil, and Burn in Hell!" So I went around back to the church office, and found that the pastor was in. The Rev’d Ernest Creed was a tall, sort of gangly and gawky looking man in his late 50's, dressed in black. After exchanging pleasantries, Rev. Creed asked me if I'd found the Lord. My stock reply to that question is usually something like, "No, but if I see Him, I'll be sure to tell him you're looking for him..." so I just politely told him I have my own church (NOT!)
But I did ask him about his feelings regarding all the new people in town, and the nickname "Boysville" that was getting around in the near-by big city. Rev’d Creed snorted and declared, "Sin! Sin and infamy and degradation invading our very community! I have been pastor here almost 20 years, and I have never seen the like of it. Fornification, bestiality, pornography, homa-sex'ls everywhere. Why, the streets aren't safe for our families and our children any more. There are more of these degenerates moving into our fair town every month, and I am appalled, sir. Just appalled! It's like a disgusting heathen invasion, that's what it is! You print that in your magazine, and you tell your readers that decent, upstanding citizens will fight this! Tell that to the new pervert mayor as well. Why, that man doesn't even come to Church..." The poor wretch spluttered on like that for quite some time, but I finally beat my retreat.
Going across the Town Green once again, I dropped in on a nice looking little convenience store called, "Boys Will Be Boys". Behind the counter was a nice looking young man who introduced himself as Billy Locke. He's the owner, and the store has a little of this and some of that, with a big emphasis on sports, scouting, and hobby supplies. Just what's needed when you don't want to drive to the big strip mall shopping centers. He also pointed out the video and DVD rental stacks in the room on the left. He grinned and asked me for some ID, so he could let me back there to check out the titles! Why, I am far older than he is himself, I exclaimed. He just grinned and said, "Boys will be boys!"
Looking around the main streets of this small town, I see some nicely kept private homes, and some small businesses. One sign advertises, "Dr. Disc, Inc. Gary Blaze, Prop." The window displays looked to cover just about everything computer related, including sales, maintenance, web page design, and it looks like he also runs a local ISP server, too. The name of that is, "GayScape.com". Of course, the name would be something like that, here in Boysville! I wonder if Mr. Blaze can listen in on chats and read emails and Message Boards about what's going on around here? If he can, I'd pay pretty good money to hear some of his stories!
I noticed a young teen pulling a huge lawn mower and what looked to be gardening supplies headed in my direction. He flashed beautiful green eyes at me and shook his reddish blond hair out of his eyes as he listened to my questions. "Who, me, sir? I'm Andrew D. Paulfield, and I'm 15 years old. What am I doing, sir? Why, as many lawn jobs as I can! I'm trying to save up for my new truck, so I can have wheels when I get my license in a few more months!" I asked him what he thought of the many gay people moving into town. He shrugged and said, "Well, they don't bother me none. I never gave it much thought. Why do ya ask?" and then he strode off down the street, whistling. I wonder if he realized how amazingly cute he is, with his tight tee shirt and those cut-offs seemingly molded to his bubble-butt cheeks? Ah, well, perhaps a story in the making...
An Australian immigrant organizes the local volunteer EMS Rescue Unit and also works for the Town, managing the maintenance side of things. His name is Robert, but the last name escapes me. He made a little joke about liking to slide down big slippery poles in the night. I have the feeling I don't want to know any more about THAT particular story!
I met a group of teenage boys trudging down the street, lugging musical instruments and sound equipment. Paul, whose nickname is Mouse for some reason, says he and his friends Kevin and Jay are trying to get a band together. They were on their way to practice in Jay's garage. "If Jay and Kevin can keep their hands out of each other's pants long enough, that is... I wish I had a boyfriend..." muttered Mousie as they wandered off. Is everybody in this town gay, I ask myself?
The First National Bank is an imposing red brick edifice facing the Green. I checked it out. The Bank President, Mr. Luke Banks, made fun of his own name as he said, "Well, what other business could I possibly have gone into after all? And no, I intend never to sell out to one of the huge multinational banks. Personal service is my motto. I like to fondle---excuse me, little bank joke there---I mean. I like to handle all the assets myself!" Luke sounds very friendly.
Walking down the sidewalk, I met another young man, who had dropped a bundle of papers and was stooped over gathering them up again. They were artistic drawings and sketches, and art supplies and pencils and crayons and such. Some of them were pretty good, too. I offered to help, and he introduced himself as Benjamin Strickland. Says he's 19, out of school, but still living with his family because his career as an artist, model, and rock band drummer haven't really taken off yet. I told him that I'd just been over to the church and talked to Pastor Creed, who seemed to be an angry minister. Benjamin wrinkled his nose and said, "Yeah! My Mom and Dad---they're Jane and Charles Strickland, by the way---are very active members of his church. I try and avoid that man! Isn't he awful?" So of course, I just had to ask Benjamin what he thought of the gay invasion of his town. Ben leaned over and lowered his voice, not wanting to be overheard, "This is off the record, but, I think it's terrific! I love it! But you can't tell my parents or anybody else that I said that, Ok?" I asked him why. Ben just giggled and turned red and said he had to get going. Another story in the making there, folks.
Well, Dougie Douglas signing off for now. There are plenty of leads to follow up, though. So many stories just begging to be told in this sleepy looking little town. I have a feeling that just beneath the surface, there's an awful lot going on. And these stories just simply MUST be told. I intend to tell some of them, before other writers horn in on the action... Or maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing! Plenty of stories here, that's for sure! I wonder which ones will be told first?