Welcome …

Another one of my fans who loves wallowing around in the muck at The Annex :-)

Welcome to the Café Palermo. This is the original site I created back in 2011 when I started posting stories online.

You can learn more about this site and the Café Palermo Annex, a different but connected site, by checking out this About page or by taking a look at the much longer welcome page at the Annex. The main difference between the two sites is that this one is devoted primarily to blogging whereas The Annex is the place where I actually publish my stories.

Since I’m no longer blogging as much as I used to, however, The Annex has become the primary site in many ways and I would encourage you to take a look around there as well. I still post chapter announcements on both sites and do occasionally have something to say here that I don’t post at the Annex.

But most of the time you’ll probably be better off wallowing around in the muck over at The Annex like that cute boy above:-)

By the way, if you’re young, gay or questioning and need help, please check out the resources to your right and my Links page; and if they don’t provide the help you’re looking for, feel free to email me and I’ll see if I can find something better for you.

Peeking ahead …

peeking ahead ...

Since I’m still not sure what comes next for me or this site I’ve been trying to decide what to say in this post. For now let me just say I may begin posting the second installment of The Liberation Anthology sometime toward the end of May or the beginning of June. Or I may not.

If I do, I’ll probably post a brief synopsis about the new story sometime after the middle of May over at The Annex, but I don’t think you’ll get a notification from WordPress if I do; and I’m not planning on sending out an e-mail announcing the story either because some may find it controversial and distasteful.

In other words, you’ll have to check back on your own after May 15th to see whether I’ve posted a synopsis under The Liberation Anthology heading at the top of The Annex and then decide for yourself whether it seems like a story worth reading.

At the moment the working title I’m using for the story is Homo! If you’re wondering why I would use a gay slur as the title, it’s because one of the big things the story is about is the power of words and no word was more charged for gay men fifty years ago than homo.

It was a cruel word, one designed to inflict pain; and while it may have lost some of its sting over the last half century, it’s still capable of hurting. If you think I should change it, let me know. I still could, but time is running out and I don’t have anything better at the moment.

Like I said, I could also still change my mind and decide not to post the story. There are a couple of reasons for that. For one thing, it would run through the end of the year and I’m not sure I want to commit that much time and energy to the project at this time.

While I also think it’s a very good story, I could probably make it longer and better if I took a leave of absence from this site and spent the next year working on it in private.

But probably the most important reason for not posting the story is because it raises some difficult questions about the ethical responsibilities of a writer and I’m not sure I have good answers for them.

If you ask people whether an author should avoid writing about the Holocaust because it was evil, for example, I think most would say no; that it’s perfectly acceptable for someone to write about bad things.

But what if the writer told you he wasn’t going to take a position one way or another about the moral issues raised by the Holocaust? That he was just going to portray it as a fact and let you decide what you think?

How would you feel about that?

What if the writer also told you the main character in the story would be a Nazi death camp guard and he wasn’t going to portray that guard as either good or evil, just as an ordinary person going about his everyday job without ever reflecting much on what he was doing?

Indeed, what if the guard was portrayed as a good husband, father and friend; or at least not a bad one?

How would you feel about such a story?

The story I’ve written is not about the Holocaust, but it raises a difficult and sensitive issue. Although it may not seem so at first, it’s also different from my other stories in important ways and many of you may not like that.

For example, my last two stories featured characters attending college and graduate school (or wanting to). I hope they came across as the intelligent people they are, but some would say their intelligence made them too cautious in dealing with life.

The lead character in the first half of Homo! is different. He’s not a good student and isn’t interested in school. He’s not career oriented or ambitious and doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about where he wants to be in five or ten years.

He’s not religious and hardly ever thinks about whether something is right or wrong. He’s just a happy-go-lucky fourteen year old kid who lives in the moment, knows what he likes and is focused on getting whatever he happens to want.

What he wants most of all is to have fun; and since he’s just recently discovered sex can be fun, the story will feature more sex than usual or at least be a lot more focused on sex. But you may find some of that sex controversial, distasteful, or even appalling.

Consider yourself warned if I go forward.

If all of that wasn’t enough, you may end up hating the ending as well. Assuming you get to the ending, of course; there’s a good chance you won’t because you’ll be mad at me for writing a story like this.

In short, if you’re looking for a feel good story, this probably isn’t the one for you. I won’t have a problem if you decide to pass on it.

Like I said, I’m still trying to decide whether to post it myself. If I don’t and decide to take some time off, thanks for your encouragement and support.

By the way, I’ve updated the galleries both here and over at The Annex. Feel free to comment (nicely) on your favorite images by clicking on them and telling us why you like them or find them amusing.

Just so you know, those of you signed up to get notices from WordPress may get a notice in the next week or two as I plan to put up a post welcoming new readers or people who stumble onto this site accidentally. You can safely ignore it:-)

Chapter 10 …

By the rude bridge that arched the flood ...

Tonight’s chapter concludes Part I of First Love, First Time. Whether there will be any more parts remains to be seen. The story could continue in the future if that’s what you want. But since I didn’t receive any suggestions regarding how to end Part I this evening, I’m guessing tonight’s chapter will be the end of the story.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed writing this story more than most and I’m satisfied with the tale as it comes to its conclusion this evening. I’ll be posting again later this week about the story. If you’re interested in seeing it continue, be sure to check out that post. For now, however, we need to finish Part I.

As you’ll recall, Lane finally revealed he was homosexual to Bruce in last week’s chapter, but only after Bruce had previously done the same thing in Chapter 8. Having discovered they shared a similar sexual orientation, Lane seemed eager to take their relationship further.

Bruce rebuffed his efforts, however, partly because he didn’t see Lane being happy if he settled down in North Adams and partly because he didn’t feel Lane was ready for a relationship with another man quite yet.

Having difficulty coming to grips with what he had learned the previous evening, Lane decided to revisit the lake the next day. Eventually Bruce joined him there and the two went for a walk in the woods.

Left undecided as the chapter ended was whether Lane and Bruce might attempt to build a life together. Whether tonight’s chapter will answer that question remains to be seen. You’ll have to read Chapter 10, which I’ve now posted at The Annex, to find out.

I hope the ending won’t disappoint you, but thanks for reading the story no matter what.

As mentioned, I’ll be back with another post about the story on Thursday if you’re interested in seeing it continue. I’ll also be posting sometime next week about my plans for this site and the future.

Chapter 9 …

wooded beauty

As you may recall from last week’s chapter, Bruce picked up Lane at his home and the two drove to Wahconah Park in Pittsfield where they took in what proved to be an exciting minor league baseball game.

From there they drove to a nearby restaurant, The Mill on the Floss. I’ve never eaten there myself so I can’t really say how good the food is. But both Lane and Bruce seemed to enjoy it so it may be worth checking out if you’re ever in the area.

Feel free to write a review if you do. I’ll be happy to post it here:-)

At the restaurant Lane struggled to get a conversation going, but eventually Bruce came to his rescue by filling him in on what had happened to him after high school. Drafted by the Boston Red Sox, he bounced around the minor leagues before eventually realizing he was never going to make it all the way to the top.

Once he realized that, Bruce decided he wanted to coach. Following a conversation with the principal at St. Joseph’s High School, he accumulated enough credits for his college degree over a number of years. Then he gave up baseball and returned to North Adams where he ended up teaching and coaching at St. Joe’s.

In turn, Lane explained how he wound up at Harvard, but decided he couldn’t pursue what he wanted to talk to Bruce about without letting him he know he was homosexual. That was something he still wasn’t ready to do so the two spent their dinner together talking about other things.

On the drive home, Lane thanked Bruce for being a caring person and the perfect role model for him when he was younger. In the ensuing conversation, one thing led to another and then to an intense discussion of that day at the lake the two boys had spent together when Lane was fourteen. That ended with a surprising revelation for Lane, which is precisely where we’ll pick up this evening.

Tonight’s chapter sets the stage for the conclusion of Part I of our story next week and that poses something of a dilemma for me. As I drafted the story, I tested out several possible endings for Part I and finally settled on the one I thought best at that time.

And yet I’ve told you all along that this is an experimental story so nothing is set in concrete. If you’re hoping for a particular ending after reading tonight’s chapter, feel free to let me know either by leaving a comment or emailing me.

I’m not saying I’ll agree with what you propose and change the tentative ending I’ve already written. It’s possible I could, but I’m really more curious to know how you as readers would like to see Part I end after you’ve finished tonight’s chapter. Like I mentioned, nothing is written in stone.

The point is I could change the ending if I wanted to. But if you have a particular ending you favor, you’ll have to let me know pretty quickly. Either that or possibly be willing to wait two weeks for the final chapter.

One thing I would stress, however, is you really need to think about the whole story, not just the last couple of chapters, if you decide to make a suggestion. Bruce is obviously an important person for Lane, but so is Paul even if we haven’t seen very much of him lately.

In any event, Chapter 9 is up at The Annex. I hope you enjoy it; and I really do encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to affect the outcome of Part I. I may not change anything, but there really are many possible endings for Part I and none is the perfect one.

There are just different endings, one of which may appeal to me or you or to that young man up above more than others. I was looking for woodsy and he was the best I could do. Whether he would make a good Bruce is for you to decide.

Chapter 8 …

The Mill on the Floss

Tonight’s chapter will prove revealing for Lane. He’ll learn things about his youth he never knew, something that will allow him to put his memories in better context and should have the added benefit of helping you better understand him as readers.

What the chapter will not do is tell us how Lane reacts to what he learns and what effect it will have on him. We’ll have to wait for Chapter 9 for that.

This was not a deliberate decision on my part, one designed to leave you hanging. Once you read the next chapter it should be obvious there was simply too much material to cram into one. Like the saying goes, haste makes waste😀

In any event, I hope you’ll enjoy tonight’s chapter for what it is, not what it isn’t. Much of the chapter takes place at a restaurant named The Mill on the Floss (featured above and, as always, much better viewed if clicked).

In last week’s chapter Lane revisited some of the places around town that were a big part of his youth. He took a walk through the woods to Kemp Park, where he played Little League baseball and where he had a brief conversation with a young boy after catching a home run with his bare hands.

By the way, having done this myself on more than one occasion, it’s not something I generally recommend unless you’re trying to impress someone you care about a lot😀

From Kemp Park Lane revisited Windsor Lake, the setting for one of his most powerful memories, the fun afternoon he spent with Bruce when he was fourteen years old. Eventually he headed home through the woods surrounding the lake, following a hidden trail that led him to a rock where he used to spend time thinking about things as a boy.

While there he met another boy named Jimmy and the two had a brief conversation.

Yeah, what was that all about, Kit?

Kit smiles.

You have to pay attention to small details like this, dudes and dudettes; more to the point, you have to have a really good memory.

One more stop, at a hidden location within the woods, and then Lane returned home for the day. Later he looked up Bruce in the high school yearbook and was surprised at just how good looking he was.

While his parents were off playing Bingo at the local church that evening, Lane called Bruce to see whether he would be interested in getting together for lunch or dinner. They talked about a bunch of things and Bruce agreed to meet Lane; indeed he invited Lane to attend a minor league baseball game with him on Saturday in a nearby community.

When Bruce showed up for the game on Saturday, Lane quickly discovered his older friend hadn’t changed very much from his youth. He was still in shape, still had the same baby-face, and was still as attractive as ever.

On the drive to the game in Pittsfield, the two talked about a number of things, including their memories of Billy Reid; the young boy they played ball with in the Little League who died of leukemia.

Tonight’s chapter picks up with their arrival at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield. Have fun reading it at The Annex and be sure to let me know what you think if you’re so inclined.

Chapter 7 …

Windsor Lake

What are some of the main things we’ve learned from the story so far?

We know our protagonist, Lane Bailey, is a homosexual, one not entirely comfortable with his sexuality. That seems hardly surprising given the story takes place in 1973 when both social attitudes and legal norms in the United States took a far dimmer view of homosexuality than today.

We also know Lane’s attracted to one of his students, a Harvard junior named Paul Miller, and indeed has spent much of the year getting to know Paul better even though he’s assumed all along Paul is heterosexual.

Isn’t it funny how an attraction can be so much more powerful when it’s seemingly beyond one’s reach?

However that may be, a late night conversation between the two at Winthrop House has left Lane a bit less certain of Paul’s heterosexuality. Faced with his impending graduation and departure from Cambridge, Lane has been reflecting on his youth in an effort to figure out when he first became aware of his homosexuality and indeed why he’s the way he is.

He hasn’t made a lot of progress in answering those questions, but his efforts at self-reflection have stirred up some powerful youthful memories.

In last week’s chapter Lane recalled a memory involving an older youth, the same one he played Little League baseball with when he was ten. But this memory took place four years later when Lane was fourteen and struggling with all the changes brought on by adolescence.

He recalls an incident at a lake one day when he was feeling lonely and friendless. Then the older, more popular, youth he admired sat down on the hill next to him. The two spent the rest of the afternoon together, playing in the water and working on their tans, all of which succeeded in lifting Lane’s spirits.

Now, years later, Lane debates whether his admiration for Bruce was perhaps the earliest indication of his homosexuality. At first he thinks not, but then later is less certain what to make of the incident, especially knowing he tried to pull down Bruce’s swimsuit while they were playing in the lake.

In the end, frustrated at having accomplished so little, Lane headed back to Conant Hall. Along the way he became aware he was being followed by someone, a young man who turned out to be homosexual as well. After some hesitation on Lane’s part, he invited the young man back to his room, ostensibly so they could get to know one another better.

Once there, however, Lane is offered the chance to have sex with someone else for the first time in his life. He starts to undress, then stops. In the end, he decides not to pursue it and nothing happens. But that outcome seemingly only adds to Lane’s despair.

At that point the story fast forwarded to Lane’s graduation and then his trip back home to western Massachusetts. Quickly bored by the small town he grew up in, he ends up visiting the grave of his friend Billy where his father fills him in on what Bruce has been up to since Lane moved away.

In tonight’s chapter and the two that follow, Lane will discover much more about his youth. What effect that will have on him remains to be seen, but it will have a powerful impact on the direction of the story one way or another.

Since the lake and surrounding woods play such a prominent role in these chapters, our featured image tonight is of a place known locally as the Fish Pond. We strive for authenticity in all things😀

By the way, the Fish Pond will also be featured in our next story if and when I ever get around to that.

I’m told the lake looks somewhat different in this picture than it did back when Lane was growing up. There’s no raft or diving tower, for example; no youthful crowds trying to cool off as there would be later in the season.

But, hey, there are limits to what you can find on the internet so it’ll have to do. It should be good enough to give you a sense of the place we’re talking about.

In any event, Chapter 7 is up at The Annex. Have fun reading as we begin to pull the final threads of Part I of our story together.

Chapter 6 …

Harvard Yard at night

I had my choice of several images to feature for tonight’s chapter, but decided to use that one above which shows Harvard Yard at night. Darkness seemed appropriate given Lane’s gloomy mood the last time we encountered him.

Like they say, however, it’s always darkest before the dawn, which was the main alternative image I considered using and one well worth your consideration if you’re looking for something more optimistic.

After a bit of a slow start in Harvard Yard, tonight’s chapter will actually skip over a lot of territory I might have spent a lot more time developing in a different kind of story; one that was intended to be more than just a beginning.

We won’t get to see Ken and Amelia get married, for example, or how Lane and Paul spend their last few days on campus before each returns home at the end of the semester. There’s a lot more that could have been developed with both of those story lines and others as well.

Say whatever you will about that, but don’t say I don’t ever do you a favor. I was tempted to split tonight’s chapter into two, which would have left you hanging at an especially interesting and crucial moment. A cheap trick, to be sure, but one I’ve been accused of before; probably correctly😀

Being the nice guy I am, however, I didn’t do that. Feel free to thank me however you choose; cash, sexual favors, they’re all good.

To recap, last week’s chapter turned out to be quite an introspective one for Lane after Paul left his office. It began with him questioning whether he was right in assuming Paul was heterosexual. Then, ashamed of himself for doubting that, he headed back to his room in Conant Hall.

Once he reached Harvard Yard, however, he found his way back to Memorial Church where Ken and Amelia’s wedding rehearsal had been held earlier in the evening. Still another round of self-doubt caused him to try to recall a time before he realized he was homosexual.

That brought back memories of his First Communion and all the fears, doubts and worries connected with that event; not to mention all the guilt which seems to have played such a big role in his life. Whatever else we know about Lane, it seems fair to say he was a worrier from a very young age.

Later still he recalled the death of one of his Little League teammates and the kind words directed to him by an older youth who played for the team as well.

Tonight’s chapter resumes with Lane still sitting on the steps of Memorial Church in Harvard Yard on the Friday evening before the wedding. I’m not an expert by any means, but Lane seems to be experiencing some kind of catharsis brought on by his impending graduation and years of frustration about his sexuality.

Instead of focusing on the future, he seems to be retreating into the past. Where that will lead him remains to be seen, but we may begin to get a glimpse in tonight’s chapter, which is now up at The Annex.

Have fun reading and see if you can figure out where I would have ended the chapter if I had decided to split it in two. I don’t think it’ll be real hard, which is probably all the more reason to thank me for not doing so😀