Forward to the Rent Boys of Prague, Part One – Free version

I’m writing now through the power of a stolen credit card.

Radovan, the first true friend I made among Prague’s rent boys, recently showed me a spot where the city’s pickpockets dispose of their castoffs after removing the crowns, euros, or pounds — or kroners, in this case — from their victims’ wallets:

It’s a decrepit, non-functional row of phone booths, and in an imminently Czech flourish, it sits opposite a small green and white POLICIE sign within a big Metro station in the city’s center. Radovan and I had been making twice-weekly visits before I even realized it was an actual working police station.

Twice, a real-live policeman or woman has come out of the door while Radovan was hanging by his fingertips, looking for treasure. They paid little attention to him. But, hey, that’s CR!

The booths’ overhanging metal shelf provides a temporary cache for stolen property. Every couple weeks, I encouraged Radovan to poke his head through the empty overhead lamp sockets and over the corrugated overhang to discover if there was an American or British identity I could use. No luck as of yet.

So, I’ve made do. Today I’m Swedish. I’m Ingemar Bergman.

This idiot had eight unsigned credit/debit cards and an American Express Blue in his wallet. So, if I’m asked, I can honestly say that, “Yes, that is my signature” and, since that’s the sole security precaution Czechs implement, all I have to do is overcome my considerable fear of getting caught.

Today I managed to do that in an large Internet cafe in Vinohrady, but my hands trembled during my walk back to the computer with my beer and bag of chips and my 1000-minute discount card.

Twenty minutes later I felt all right, easing back into the groove of writing again after a 3-month hiatus caused by the loss of my PowerBook. Whenever anyone asks why I don’t have a computer I tell them I lost it gambling. Seems plausible and it’s close enough to the truth…

I have every intention of paying back this internet cafe once I get published but I only feel responsibility, not guilt. Through a ruthlessly consistent combination of foolishness — both the romantic and “lack-of-common-sense” varieties — as well as bad luck, I’ve put myself in the situation of having to finish a book without a computer, and without money, and up until now, without an introduction.

How can I avoid it? The stealing, not the introduction — I know I can avoid that for an awfully long time. I can’t get a real job unless I go totally legit with a visa (and I’m already technically illegal here) and I can’t get a shit Czech job either because I’m a foreigner and because I speak malo Český, only a little of the language.

I’ve contemplated tossing down my throat the two bottles of “mood enhancers” my hetero roommate keeps in the bathroom, shipped from her Republican mom in Virginia in a box, along with vitamins, packets of mild taco seasoning plus girly camisoles and tank tops from JC Penney.

I’ve pictured myself toppling languidly off the low railings of one of Prague’s many bridges. One of them conveniently spans solid earth rather than water. Less appealingly, I’ve wondered if I could be as drunk and oblivious to danger as a crazy local teenager was during New Year’s. He leaned over the tracks as a joke, teasing his friends as the Museum Metro pulled into its station and wondrously decapitated himself. Not even after 20 beers, my current one-day tolerance.

So even though I only have about 30 days on the outside of finishing this book, depending on the accounting practices of this cafe, it occurred to me that I have no other choice. It occurred to me I am writing for my life. It occurred to me that to prevent myself from becoming an even bigger and more desperate criminal, I have no choice.

I’ll say it again: I don’t feel bad or even sorry for what I did. However, in retrospect, I regret not grabbing more while the getting was good. If the boys have taught me anything, it is to do what you have to do in order to survive, even if it means sacrificing your post-Christian identity.

No, it’s dread that I feel. I fear the person I’ll become if I take certain next steps. I fear I’ll hate him. And that’s coming full circle back to the psychological state that, three years ago, sent me running from Chicago to Prague.

So, I’ve come back to a sort of beginning.

In 2002, I arrived in Prague as the last stop of a one-month tour of Europe which had begun in Paris (where, intimidated and chased out of the very gay and very talky cafes of the Marais, I slept 14 hours to avoid human contact), running through Belgium (where I got some relief biking in the countryside and listening to Belgian-American roots-rock in a cheap-as-fuck hostel in Bruges), and the Netherlands (where only expat skinheads talked to me and I still wasn’t able to negotiate sex; and where I was too scared to visit the all-male brothels), continuing through Germany (where I lost my passport and enjoyed the riverside in Koln) and landing in the Golden City, the City of a Thousand Spires, the Central European Amsterdam, the new European City of Vice, in late May. I thought I would be too tired to enjoy myself. I thought I would experience the same splendid isolation and sexlessness I did in Paris or Amsterdam.

But, I was wrong.

Instead, I felt welcomed, by the cheap stream of Czech beer, acceptable at any time of day, by the endless parade of rent boys lining up for a chance to acquire my 32-1 exchange-rate dollars and by the small community of older gay punters.

I didn’t come to Prague, or to Europe for that matter, with the specific or conscious intent of procuring sex for money, even though for the last five years or so in the States, the free kind had become too expensive. Paying for it was on my mind, though.

I was disappointed with myself for not going for it in Amsterdam; but, after ten hours in Prague in which I saw, but didn’t sample, the Romanian-gymnast boyfriend of the guy whose room I rented and after only being spoken to in my first Czech gay bar by two cute Irish lesbians and by an almost-certainly-for-sale “lithe, dark-skinned studlet,” as I wrote at the time in my travel diary — he took off for more promising, heavy-set shadows as soon as he understood I could speak neither Czech nor German — I determined I was gonna get me some.

It only took two days.

Very little of what I wrote during my first seven-day stay in Prague is worth preserving. However, my first night in Pinocchio, probably Prague’s most famous and busiest hustler bar, is the first glimpse into what was to come:

Couldn’t get anyone to answer the doorbell at Alcatraz, Prague’s private leather and bondage club, so Adi and Chris (who owned the flat where I was staying) took me to Pinocchio’s, the hustler bar that the gypsy rent boy with so many missing front teeth disparaged yesterday, probably because he doesn’t work there. Chris and Adi hung out with me only under the persuasion of free drinks — it really wasn’t their scene — and so finally, they got tired and left me to the wolves.

I was terrified as they began circling.

A dark-skinned, muscular boy in a short leather jacket, who had been observing me intermittently all night with his finger rubbing his chin and lips and quite baldly assessing his earning potential, was the first to arrive at my large table. [He was later identified to me as gypsy or Roma, an erotic attraction to which would become a recurring pattern.]

Very soon after he sat down, after my nod of approval, other boys came up, and all six chairs at the table around me were filled with interested and attentive rent boys. The dark-skinned boy’s name was Petr, and though he didn’t understand much English, he knew the word “kiss,” and as soon as I asked if he did, he laid a long one on me: open-mouthed with a wet tongue and teeth. He kissed me, and we mashed our faces around one another’s several times until a waiter breezing by seemed to chew Petr out in Czech for doing it. Three years later, after having kissed dozens of boys in Pino’s, I still don’t understand why.

Petr and I cooled it for a bit, although he possessively kept one hand on my knee and one arm around my shoulders. I bought a round of drinks for all the boys at the table. I hadn’t come close to reaching my travel budget for this trip, and by this time I was in a very generous, very expansive mood.

Since Petr’s English was poor, a very tall, lean, very typically Czech-looking boy with a suedehead, whose name was Ladja, took over the translation and negotiation duties. He eventually managed to convey the idea of a three-way between him, me, and Petr. But before the final price could be settled on, Ladja asked me several questions about what I did for a living.

All the boys at the table contributed a query or two, particularly and pointedly: Did I have an apartment in Prague and if so, where was it? I answered them truthfully — a mistake since it led to a larger closing price. But by this time, I was quite carried away with it all and realized that even if I took their first offer, I would still be getting a bargain by U. S. standards. So after less than twenty minutes of good-natured wrangling I paid the bar tab (embarrassingly, Ladja had to make up the difference since I’d only brought 1000 Kc with me) and he and Petr and I slipped somewhat drunkenly into a cab. We made our way first to a bankomat so I could get enough cash to cover the three-way and then rode on to my rented room.

Once back in the room I discovered that Ladja had one of the biggest cocks I’d ever seen, not to mention sucked, in my life: 24 cm, I’m sure! It was hefty as well and made a substantial slapping sound when it hit his thighs or my cheeks. But, it never got fully hard. Petr, on the other hand, was an average size; but it was one of the hardest dicks I’ve ever put into my mouth.

Although he wasn’t as much into kissing as he had been in the bar, he was more than happy to let me swing on his dick for a long while. I encouraged him to flex his brown body and he smiled and bunched up his pecs and curled his biceps for me. He was lightly hairy on the chest and smelled wonderful, like a man who’d been drinking and sweating in a bar all night.

Ladja must have gotten bored watching me go after Petr, so he quickly took over the proceedings and instructed Petr into beginning a round-robin of cock-sucking. During it all, the boys held a conversation, periodically taking their mouths off their respective dicks and joking and jabbing in Czech the entire time.

It was distracting and it took me a long while to cum probably because I felt like I was out of control of the situation. The boys never did come and by 4 am in the morning we were all very tired and Petr asked if he could go to sleep. I acquiesced and Ladja padded off to the kitchen for some mineral water — he wouldn’t drink alcohol at all despite the fridge full of beer. Petr had no problem matching me bottle for bottle.

Coming back to bed I noticed the slight sway to Ladja’s gait and how he instinctively put one foot almost directly in the front of the other as he walked. Nude in his combat boots, 9” cock swinging ever so slightly between his slim but well-shaped legs, he could have been a runway model for Gaultier.

I woke up early the next morning and tried to get Petr going again — no way had I had enough of this one from the night before. Although I got him hard, he wasn’t the least bit interested in continuing sex and in fact, barely acknowledged my existence past a curt nod when my genital manipulations finally woke him up. Nevertheless, he left with a big ol’ woody tenting his jeans. When I pointed it out to him I finally got a smile and a shrug.

That passage was the precursor to the weblog to come when I returned to Prague in 2003, intending to stay for good, or until my money ran out, which came much sooner than I thought. If I had known then what I know now I would never have come back to Chicago in 2002. Back in the States, suffering from post-partum depression, I struggled to make a living doing web design, ebaying, as well as creating, and sometimes starring in, amateur porn movies. None of the former was either a total failure or a glittering success; but none of them did that much for my bank account nor for the health of my inner life.

I subsisted, just barely.

I was sick to death of my friends, most of whom had never been out of the country nor had much desire to do so. I was alienated by Chicago’s music scene, which had once sustained me. I was tired of doing the same shit, riding the same bike paths, watching the same Buffy or ST:TNG episodes over and over.

And I couldn’t get laid to save my life, or, when I did, couldn’t figure out why I’d bothered. Coming to loathe American apathy, an apathy firmly rooted in the wealth and privilege of both the right and the left, that had allowed a pale, stupid, fleshy monster to take power, I remembered my unique freedoms in Prague and decided to go back.

For me the choice was obvious: I could slowly choke on my own resentment or I could leave. Instead of this long-winded forward maybe I should have simply written: “I sold all my shit and abandoned my life in the States to hang out with boy hustlers and petty criminals, become a john and sometimes a pimp. There were some ups and downs, but I’m still glad I did it.”

When I began the blog, I made a conscious decision to completely avoid the whys and hows of making such a drastic change. I didn’t want to bore anyone with my angst, least of all myself. So, I just jumped right in and started writing about what was happening to me. Then people started reading and sometimes sending me money.

So, I kept writing.

Amid all of it, I realized I’d managed to make myself a much happier person. This might come as a surprise as you read on.

It certainly surprised me.

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