Letters from the Underworld Part 4 Rory and the Pea(stalk)

If you recall from much prior letters (pre-XMAS), I'd mentioned a rather handsome little rugrat named Pea, whom I'd met many months ago in the courtyard of Underworld while I was eating lunch with Mary Lou one Saturday afternoon. I normally don't "see" or give the time of day to such young children, as they tend to be scatterbrained, noisy, and uninteresting to me on almost every level.

Our encounters since then have been random and aperiodic, and yet they are marked with unusual bits of conversation where he tells me how he remembers a shared event between us, or asks me if I remember some particular detail of a prior encounter. I think it's his way of intoning the imagined/remembered into some tangible reality, in the way ancient magicians used to believe that verbal chants gave the abstract a solid material form.

By way of reminder, this is the boy whose single mother radiated S-I-N-G-L-E M-O-M from a thousand paces the moment I saw her. To her credit, she didn't regard me as the Harbinger of Paedogeddon, but instead actually expressed her appreciation for my spending time with her son and playing with him.

So this past Friday (last week almost to the day), I'm walking out of the locker room area towards the front desk, and sure enough, Pea is there. He leaves his stash of chocolates to come over to me and nearly throws himself into my arms. He's too well trained or self aware to complete the motion, but its mere attempt was blissfully heartwarming all the same.

He leans against me, and as his right touches my left, he seems to almost melt into me, as if I were a warm pan and he were butter.

He wants to go swimming with me, but it's after 8PM (adult lap-swim time only) and he didn't bring his swimtrunks. Mother says "you should have remember to bring them". He then asks to be carried up onto my shoulders - it's now his favourite position to sit up there, nearly 7 feet in the air at his eye level.

I toss him up onto my shoulders with complete ease, and I usually do it with a bit of a rapid flourish, which never fails to elicit a squeal of delight from him, and I take him on a little tour of the hallways, which have all of these dangling superheroes in various poses. From his elevated perch, he can now reach them - so he's taken with "tagging" them as we walk by.

I hold him by the outside of the legs, which grip the back of my neck - mainly to ensure he doesn't slide off during any of his more elaborate reaches for various things. He'll do very deep bends to the sides, almost to the point where his head comes down to mine, or leans over my head directly, draping his hands down over the front of my shoulders.

As we go by the chocolates on the front desk counter [which is about four feet high], we play a bit of the "you give me one/I give you one" where I hand an unwrapped chocolate up to him, and he does the same for me. He likes the idea of giving me things, which seems a little unusual for someone of his age.

So after a couple of chocolates, I reach up and cup his ears and ask if he's ready to whack Superman a few more times. He tilts his head into my hands as if he wanted to melt into them. It's a curious sensation, really - there is a momentary stillness and gentle bonding as if there is some electro-chemical transfer between us and the energy flying from my hand to his face were also welding them together.

When I release his face, he bounces excitedly and declares he wants to "get" all of the Superman mobiles down the hallway. I half-trot/run up and down the hallway, marking a "run trajectory" and preparing him for the rapid-fire assault upon the paper "Men of Steel" arranged in a roughly straight line down the 16 foot corridor.

We play like this together for a good 20 minutes. Pea climbs down, and up, and down, and up. And finally, when I'm ready to go, he turns to me, grabs my hand and asks if I'll be back next Friday (which is now today) because he wants to go swimming with me this time and that he'll remember to bring his bathing suit. He seems happy with the answer and asks me my name.

As he's talking, Pea leans progressively more and more into my side, threatening to melt again.

Pea is very well made, and a handsome boy. And despite his youth and the simplicity of our interactions, he has a sweet personality which never fails to make me feel a bit better for having spent time with him, despite the foolishness of it all.

When Pea sees me, I am reminded of those dogs who wag their tails in delight upon seeing their beloved master so furiously, that their entire bodies precess with the momentum of the primary motion. His face explodes in a huge smile, he waves (or runs) towards me and lets out a boyish whoop of delight.

I daresay, how can anyone fail to smile at such a thing? All of this from rolling a ping-pong ball back and forth with him at a table, which led to bouncing it across the courtyard, which led to a sort of "hand-ball" version of ping-pong at the ping-pong table, and ended with his getting me to use one of his TMNTs as a "paddle" for it.

At some point, I'll probably give him The Special Gift, the gift I give to all boys of single mothers I come to know since my time in Denver. It's an earnest plea to his mother: allow her little boy to grow up strong and independent as he gets older, and to avoid emasculating him with motherly protectiveness which however well intentioned, can seriously thwart his healthy development into a fully functional man. I do this as an ex-son-of-a-single-mother myself, and I've never been slapped in the face yet.

Post Scriptum:
I saw Antonio this past Wednesday, but the lifeguard had roped me into a longish chat, so I didn't get to play with him. He's as smart-looking as ever, and his "standard" swim trunks are getting tight on him. He's a VERY handsome pre-teen boy in the classically Mexican light-mocha complexion moda. He and one of the men frequently at the Underworld who I dub (Mr Pervert) had repeatedly veered towards me during their roughhousing, with Mr. Pervert falling against my side during one particularly close pass.

I don't think Mr. Pervert is ready for the same sort of roughhousing that Alejandro or Pea enjoy, however.

It's with no small amount of disappointment that I've seen not a sign of Alejandro - it's possible he only comes on the weekends.

Until next time....




Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Guys!!
Here is a modest selection of Holiday greeters to share. I hope they bring a smile to your face.


Toby Learns the Meaning of Giving

Continuation of  Two Trains for Toby

On the afternoon before the Model Train club meeting, Sam called me to ask me if I was going to be at the meeting. I am sure he wanted to remind me it was to be the initial night of Toby’s membership.

 “Of course I plan to be there.” I told him, “I wouldn’t miss it for anything”

I arrived a few minutes early like I usually do for the monthly meeting. It is held at the basement of the Hobby shop. It appeared that many of the 20 members were already present, and early like myself. Sam greeted me and thanked me for coming, although he does this for everyone that attends the meeting, he shook my hand with an earnest reception.

I sat towards the back of the room. When everyone chosen a seat, there was no one sat by me  What! do I stink or something? I thought to myself.  I took a shower before I came to the meeting. Just then, in walked Toby with his mom and his uncle. They all sat by me.
Toby sat right next to me and introduced me to his uncle and his mom. We greeted each other then took our seats

Toby’s Mom, Helen, said, “I want to thank you Jim for making my son very happy.”
I nodded to her and said

 “It is my pleasure.”

Toby faced his uncle and said
 “ Uncle Mike, this is Jim... he’s the nice man that bought me the train set.”

Mike stuck his hand out and we shook hands. He asked me why I did this for Toby?

 “Just because I wanted to” was all I said.

He looked me in the eye and smiled. Then he said, “That was very thoughtful of you to do such a nice deed.” “He now has everything he ever wanted in his Set-up, you sure did make him one happy boy.”
 “I am very pleased that he likes the trains.” “He is one nice young boy, he reminds me of someone...” I did not finish what I was going to say.

Mike just smiled and did not push me to finish what I was going to say.

Sam called the meeting to order, He opened with an introduction,
 “The first thing I want to say is, thank you all for coming.” “We have a new member that just joined the club.” “Toby come on up.”

Politely he asked, “Sir, can I bring my mom and uncle up with me?”

“Well yes you sure can bring them along with you.”

Sam asked Mom what her name was.
“I am Helen I want to thank you for letting Toby into your club.”

 “It is our pleasure to have him in our club.” Sam beamed.

Then Toby’s uncle said, “I am his uncle Mike, this is a very special night for all of us.”

Sam presented Toby his membership card. Which, Toby proudly accepted, and shook Sam's hand, thanking him. Sam asked Toby to say a little more, “Now, Toby you have to tell us all about your train lay out.”

  He spoke up quite clearly and announced, “The first train set I have is very small, it only has one engine, four cars and a tunnel that my uncle had made for the lay out.” “I always like coming into this store to look at all the trains and to play with Sam's trains in the basement.”
“I always hoped that someday I will have a train lay out just like this one.” “That some day came when I meet Jim.” “You see we met here, and we were just talking bout our trains, and I guess I told him what would make-up my ultimate lay-out, and well.... he made it happen for me.” “It was the best day of my life well almost the best day of my life.”

Sam introduced Helen and asked her if she would like to say something?
She stood and looked towards me, “Jim! we all know why you did this for Toby.” “Sam told us all about how you lost your nephew in a automobile accident.”:And thanks to your kindness, you have made my son a very happy boy.”

Sam looked at me as if he was inviting me up to say something. Then he motioned me to come-up front.

I stood and walked to the front, debating to myself what I should say. I was prepared to tell the whole room, but instead I looked only at Toby with his mom and uncle.

“First let me explain it to you how this all started.” “When Robbie was a little boy we would always go to town and pick a name or two off the Giving Tree.” “We would buy everything that was on that list” “But often, he would also pick out an extra toy for whomever the random kid was.”
I continued my story, “When he was killed in the automobile accident, every year I would go and pick a couple of names on a giving tree and buy everything on those kid’s lists, and a extra toy or two.” “Except this year when I meet your son in the store and he was so polite, then he shook my hand not only once but twice.” “It just reminded me so much of Robbie, and that is when, I decided that he needed the train set.”

Toby said, “You bought more than I showed you.”

All I could say was, “If you’re going to have a train lay-out, you have to have a good one with everything to go along with it.”

 Toby looked to his Mom, and smiled ear to ear. I reckon he knew the Giving Tree had bloomed a handsome gift for him to enjoy.

Helen gave me hug and thanked me and told me how much he appreciated what I had done for her boy. Toby had tears in his eyes and thanked me again for everything. He is a treasured soul, and I am quite proud to tell about him.

Farm Boy


Two Trains for Toby

I have been wanting to add two more trains to my toy train-set lay out. Since it is getting that time of year, I decided it was justified and well deserving to go and buy myself the two trains. The train store is a locally owned Hobby shop. They also host a Toy Train club which I am a member. Like any typical day, I walked into the store and Sam asked if I was going to be adding to my train lay out.

 “Why yes I am.” “I want to buy two more trains.“ “Oh and of course a special car in memory of Robbie.”

It has now been almost 20 years since I lost my Nephew Robbie in an unfortunate car accident. However his memory is restored each year when I celebrate the holidays with the train hobby which he was so fond of. This was a joy and interest we both shared.

I grab a cart and went to the aisle where the engines and cars are. There stood a young boy, I would guess his age to be around fourteen.  He was stocky built and wore a sweat shirt that read “I am a farmer”. He wore a pair of matching sweat pants and work shoes. I noticed he was looking at the same engine that I had been considering for the past few weeks. As I walked closer to him, he turns and causally looked at me and smiled. I selected the same engine off the shelf. I was studying the engine, and he says, 
 “This engine is a very powerful, it is one of the best on the market.”
I didn’t hesitate; I looked at him and stated, “It should be for what it costs.”

I placed the packaged engine in my cart along with a generous selection of cars.
He asked me how big my lay out is.
“I have two trains right now and I am going to be adding two more trains.”
I followed with an inquiry how big was his train set-up.

“Oh well, I have only one train and only have a tunnel.”
 “The track is very small, no buildings or trees just my tunnel.”
 “How rude I am.” He stuck out his hand,  “I am Toby.”

I shook his hand and told him, “ I am Jim.”
He reminded me of Robbie when he stuck out his hand and by the way he talked and how polite he was.

                                                   In the spirit of modelers, I asked what kind of a lay-out did he really want.
He began his calculations of which engines and track he would desire then determined the optimal car count and grading for hills and tunnel lengths.  He began showing me which pieces there in inventory he would like to have for his lay out.
As he wound down his design plans, I told him that would be one good lay out.
I asked him where he has his lay out set-up?

“ I have it in the basement, were my uncle made me a place for the trains.”

I remarked,  “So according to your shirt, are you a farmer?

“Oh yes sir, I guess so... I work for my uncle on his farm.” “He pays me what he can.”
“I have thirty dollars saved up.”

Keep saving, and some day you will be able to buy everything you want.

He smiled and said, “ I sure hope I will.” “My uncle is like a dad to me..... my dad left us when I was a little boy.”

I took a liberty and patted his shoulder then explained, “I raised my nephew when I was on the farm.” Before he could ask me anything about Robbie I changed the subject mentioning the long hours of farm work.

He said his Mom is going to be here soon but he wanted to go and play with Sam's trains in the basement before time to go, but he politely asked me to join him.

I thanked him but said I needed to finish shopping.

He stuck his hand back out, “ It was a pleasure meeting you Jim.”
“I enjoyed talking trains with you Toby.”

He left for the basement to play with the trains.

In an odd turn of events after meeting Toby, well I decided that I could go without my  train sets. I loaded everything he wanted for his lay out in my cart including the engine he wanted.
As I was checking out a lady walked into the store.
 “Excuse me sir, Sam have you seen my son?”

  “Yes  he is in the basement playing with the trains.”
She smiled and casually says,
 “He sure does like trains” as she walked toward the basement.

I payed for everything and loaded everything into a cart. Sam looked at me turning his head slightly.
 “What is it Sam?”

 “You already have all of this stuff, except for that engine.”

 “Well, this is for Toby.” “He reminds me so much of Robbie, so I decided that he needed it all more than I do.” “Besides Robbie would be proud of me for doing this.”

 “Oh yes! one more thing I will pay for a years membership in the club.”

Sam quickly chirped, “Oh no you won't, it’s on me.” Grinning, he summed it up, “He sure will be one happy boy.” “Here, Jim this is for you.” “That special car, just for Robbie.”

I thanked Sam, and told him how much it means to me.

Just then Toby and his mom came up from the basement. I asked Toby if he would like to help me to my car. He grabs the cart and pushed it to my car. As we were walking out of the store Sam smiled at me. Toby asked where to put it all in my car.

I placed my hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eye, ‘Toby, you put it all in your car.... this is for you.”

His mom looked at me. “Why are you doing this?”

 “Lets just say just because I want to.”

Toby had tears in his eyes and gave me a hug.“Thank you Jim, I will take  good care of it.”

 “I know you will Boy.”

His mom gave me a hug. “You just made one boy, a very happy boy.” “Thank you so much.

Toby smiled and kindly added, “Please say Hi to Robbie from me and tell him he has a great uncle.”
 “I will.” Mustering any scrap of remaining composure, I nodded and left for home.

Farm Boy

(To Be Continued)


Geek of the Week - 2nd Issue

I did a little Air travel around the recent Holiday. I landing for a connecting flight  in an airport in the Eastern US. I saw a teen who qualified suitably in our Geek/Nerd category. He was about 13 and wearing a Hoodie, Ear Muffs, Shorts with some errant mint colored fleece garment tied around his waist. For a splash of fashion he had Camo socks with pink bands and highlights. These were almost full calf length. The his back pack was wildly colored and possibly a tapestry design. He was Hispanic with Black hair in a typical boys cut. He had large lens glasses supported with dark roundish frames. They sat wide upon his face and almost seemed to rest upon his cheeks. I have not seen a young guy wearing rims like this since the movie "Lucas" in the 80's

I noticed he seemed to accompany a thin average height anglo man, very soon I saw him grasping the man's arm and it was clearly an affectionate move. I studied the possibilities of this middle-aged man with a Hispanic teen boy as an endeared travel companion. In a short while the plot thickened, another man joined them and the boy leaned close to the second man and hugged him lazily. It seemed now possible that the young fellow is traveling with two men who in my summation appear to be his Dads. There was nothing striking or unusual about the men. From my distance, they did not appear to be a couple, but who knows?

Apparently they were on my destination flight which was to an even smaller Airport with very little foot traffic and certainly no hurried travelers scrambling about to catch connecting flights. I ended up standing in the Rental Car line behind Dad #2. I pondered if I should ask if they were all a family, But I decided that was entirely too nosy. There was only one agent handling the car clientele. Of course there were the usual troubles with decisions, over vehicle size, pricing and insurance coverages that had to be bargained for each client. The lady was as efficient as needed, but being a smaller city, urgency was not paramount.

I noticed Dad #2 was wearing a ball cap from a Major California Sports team, which was a common thread within their group of guys. In my slight frustration of waiting, I sighed to my self "Small towns". Dad #2 turned and with the whitest teeth smile possible he grinned and replied, something like "Tell me about it". I inquired about their home city, based upon his hat, which he confirmed, and we rambled slightly about the differences between large Airports and this one.

I finally had the nerve to ask if they were indeed a little family. However the words that fell upon his ears apparently was me asking if they were arriving to see family. He went on to explain their oldest son was graduating from Boot camp and he seemed a bit bewildered by the young man's sudden decision. He did comment he was relieved the son had chosen to do something with his life, besides camping in front of a video game for 14 hours a day until he's 27 and finally leaves the nest. I reminded the man that the new 19 is now 27. He was amused, but pensive I am sure.

 I glanced to see the teenager waited with the first Dad surveying their pile of luggage. Then the man mentioned he was unsure how it would all work out for their Thanksgiving meal. I suggested they locate a large Hotel for that day. In my experience big Hotels have great chefs and they are forced to be open for the Holiday and almost nobody ever goes there, so it won't be crowded. He nodded and seemed to agree. By this point I had detected enough Gaydar intel to know for certain my suspicions were confirmed. Even though he misunderstood my prying question earlier, I now knew the answer anyway.

We soon parted and I never saw the geeky Teenager again. I also never found out if the two men had adopted the boy, or how their family came together. It was pretty evident that their young son had no qualms about expressing himself in his liberated and unique form of attire. Who knows what direction his interest will take him, at this stage so much is flux, however he garnered some tickling movements on my Gaydar needle.



Letters from the Underworld Part 3

Letters from the Underworld Part 3 Friday night's activities... (very nice with a touch of bitterness)
Tonight (Friday) was quite fun, even without either of the A's.

It could have been a flawless evening but for a small reminder the caution one must always exercise when rough-housing with kids.

I'd gotten there at 6.30PM, right on time for a friend's dinner break and Janis's (Pea's mom) at the front desk with her.

"Ah! There he is! My class is cancelled and Pea's been asking after you."

"Ah, so he's by himself, is he? OK, we can do something about that."

"There are a couple of adults in the pool too, but he's a bit bored. He can't seem to keep his swim-trunks on - I took him to the store for some new ones but he grabbed the wrong size."


After a bit of chatter with a friend and handing over her coffee + sandwich, I get changed and hop into the pool. Pea gives me a yell of excitement and big-grinned cheer for a welcome [never a bad way to start].

Luis (the Mexican mid-30s-something lifeguard) had gifted the pool with a water basketball thingie + couple of different sized (and weighted) balls for it.

Pea was enamored by it, and now that Giant Rory was there, he could finally get some much needed height to improve his "accuracy". Lifting turned into riding on my back turned into riding on my shoulders.

Janis wasn't lying about his trunks - they were barely able to stay on, so when I lifted him I gripped him lower from the waist catching his shorts with my thumbs so they'd stay put. Otherwise there was a genuine risk that I'd shuck 'em off his little body when I quickly lifted him out of the water. Not a terrible thing, I suppose, but we don't want awkwardness in such a public forum. I figure having a boy not my own with his arms and legs wrapped around me is probably enough potentially awkwardness at one time.

He finally got his wish, though. He clung to me while I clambered out of the pool to fetch a ball, and on the way into the pool, I then half-hopped the last two steps to get back into the pool.

His favorite position was to sit on my shoulders, and have me jump up from a partially submerged position whereupon he'd make his shot when he reached the apex of travel (pretty much on the level of the hoop at this point with all of the added height).

He gets tired of hitching up his shorts, so he asks me if I can retie them for him. I bring him over to the steps so he can sit above water, and then tie them as tightly as possible. They're a strange configuration (the string doesn't go through the waistband of the swimmers, but rather, just through about 1.5-2 inches of material in front. I at least get them where they mostly stay on his hips.

Two 5s and their dad come in. Pea then wants to have teams play each other. Pea knows the two kids, and the guy's pretty friendly. We half-heartedly try for "3 point" shots from halfway across the pool with some amusing results. (The ball's very "reactive" and even if you get the ball in the right spot, it often bounces out of the hoop, especially if you've given it any speed at all.)

I start to ease out and let the boys play amongst themselves, and start to swim my lazy laps.

And here is where the small bit of bad enters the stage. A 7.5 lad I've seen before (hell, I've even TOSSED him too, after we played water frisbee because he was bored) comes in. From the moment he enters, he is a ball-hog. He just carries it around, not even making a shot. The other three boys are getting impatient - but this kid just wanders around with it, and even gets out of the pool at one stage to evade them. One of the 5s (a Eurasian looking one) is less emotionally resilient than his brother or Pea for that matter and starts to whine/cry about the ball.

So the ball ends up getting free, I happen to be at the shallow end of the pool when it happens, and Mr. Ballhog is aggressively shoveling his way to the ball. My big mistake: I reach out and hold him back for a few seconds to let the others get it.

He turns to me and says "Let go, you pervert!" I don't think that Janis, the lifeguard, or even the 5s' dad hears this - and it doesn't register in the younger boys of course. I'd had a hold of him just above his ribs, on his sides, just under the arms. I figure that's a reasonably "safe" spot - it's visible above water, etc, etc. I naturally let go instantly, and begin a quiet "retreat" back to my laps. I don't get involved any further in their play. A few minutes later, a pair of menacing magic-agers come in and join their game a bit. (Ah, if only there were ways to get to know them!)

OK, fine - he was right, I am like everyone, at some point "a pervert" label could be tagged. But I wasn't perving him! It's funny how much the label stings, though, even if you realise that he more likely just used it as a foolproof way to get left alone, be selfish and do what the *%$< he wants.

But all the same, I will treat him differently if I encounter him in the future. I'll never initiate any contact with him, and will play with him only as a by-product of playing with someone else prior to that. The only time I'll touch him at all is if he basically asks me to.

It's definitely a different world, and even at 7 they know they can drop a single word and freeze an adult in their tracks.

I try not to dwell on it, but the moment resurfaces occasionally - and makes me a bit distracted when I'm showering and changing into my normal clothes. I'm leaving the Underworld just as Janis + Pea are leaving, and he lights up again and asks for a "ride" on my shoulders out to their car. From that perch, he's "taller" than the doors, so he has to duck to get out. He's a good antidote for those "lingering dark thoughts", as his pleasure is as straightforward as the actions which produce it.

So once outside mostly to their car by the poolhouse "emergency exit" (that the lifeguards use as a "quick entrance" when they forget something), Janis goes in for something. She leaves her baby with Pea (whom I've set on the ground, so he can watch his brother), and as I turn, Pea turns to me and grabs my wrist. "Hey, stay with me!"

I give him my best smile, gently put my other hand on his head and answer "Sure thing, Pea." I wait for his mother to return, and then squeeze his shoulder a little and say goodbye.

By all accounts, it was a great evening, really. I just wish I could dwell more on what made it so, rather than what slightly marred it.

I'm sure you've all had similar moments.


PS: I'm not sure my swimtrunks are built for the kind of stress they'd encounter if I had Alejandro on my shoulders. I should probably look for a jockstrap to wear underneath them to guard against "wardrobe malfunctions" of this sort.