Main | Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Blogger Goes Undercover In The Meat Rack

Choire Sicha, the Radar Online blogger who broke the story of last week's sex arrests in Fire Island's Meat Rack, decided to do some first person investigating over the weekend.
This Saturday afternoon, in the aftermath of a number of arrests by the National Parks Service in the gay cruising grounds of Fire Island, your intrepid reporter camped out in some fairly short shorts with a book and waited for more drama to unfurl. It was sort of like going undercover, but not really?

But first, a note! Gay publications (including The Advocate, but also Next and Edge) have happily quoted the Department of the Interior's assertion that "no arrests were made." This is parroted by Fire Island residents with the sort of relief that any kind of denial brings. Quick, to West's Encyclopedia of American Law! "[T]he detention of a person need not be accompanied by formal words of arrest or a station house booking to constitute an arrest." If you are not free to leave—for instance, if you are in handcuffs, and a federal agent is searching your pockets—you are most decidedly under arrest. So, for starters, it's a shame that the National Park Service is lying and that gay publications believe it.


So out in the Meat Rack, the federal forest between Cherry Grove and the Pines, I met a man who described his "flavor" as "Blatino" and who suggested, unprompted, for himself the pseudonym of "Max." He reported that he had seen a timid, anxious three-way taking place in the bushes that afternoon and not much else—but that the Meat Rack had, last night in the wee hours, been hopping. No one expected the park rangers to have the budget for night patrols.

A Suffolk County police officer cruised along the sand road on an ATV. She didn't even slow down. On July 24, 1967, the New York Times reported on that department's now long-extinct campaign of arrests: in 1966, there were 60 arrests, mainly for disorderly conduct, with most of the gay men pleading guilty. Anonymous reports of the arrests were mailed to their employers, but the cops claimed they only did so "with certain occupations, such as schoolteaching." And: "Repeaters are sometimes given jail sentences of up to a year."

Max said he had recently, prompted by the annoyances of New York-area sex venues being shuttered, taken it upon himself to, with a friend, host a private party: no drugs, well-hung only, of eight men. It was, he reported, a big success! Though, as you might expect of a group of men, it really only lasted for an hour. There were a few other lurky turkeys hanging out, but skittish. For the next few hours, nothing happened. The proposed protest of a "circle jerk for freedom" never encircled.

And the following day, Sunday, things were pretty quiet; no cops of any stripe. Everyone had heard that the new park rangers put on staff at the Fire Island National Seashore had been informed by their superiors that arresting gay men for lewd behavior was not a priority here. How that might have been put to them was not explained. The Superintendent's office and the Regional Director's office never returned phone calls.

The brief return of Fire Island to the '60s was, apparently, over

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