R. Paul at 13 visiting Coney Island

RPM at 13, already a sexual being

“Hello sailor, looking for a good time?”

What a gangly kid. and look at that upper body development. This photograph is definitely from July 1961, because the print is labelled. The occasion was an outing with my mother and my aunt and her two daughters. I was on Summer vacation. I had just graduated grammar school and was awaiting the start of high school in the Fall.

In this photograph I'm cracking my knuckles, a habit I'd picked up about a year earlier. It's something I do to this day. We're on the Coney Island Boardwalk here, and that's the Tornado in back of me and the big Ferris Wheel at the right of the picture. It wasn't called a Ferris Wheel though. It was called something else, like “The Big Wheel” or “The Wonder Wheel” or something. The cars were not static on the circumference of the wheel. They rode on rails and were free to journey a little ways into the interior of the wheel. This was apparently a big thrill for people, although the one time I got on the thing it was only mildly interesting. You can see that the individual cars in this case are not riding the circumference. Outside of the rides you can see that this photograph captured the usual high-minded emporia of the boardwalk.

I'm a sexual being in this photograph. I haven't been a virgin for some years, and I'm, well, taking care of those urges by myself at least once a day. Maybe that's why I needed to crack my knuckles. Some time in the previous year I'd sat in class and had an internal dialogue with myself, deciding in the end that I really was “a queer.”

And in case it's not showing up well in your browser, that is a sailor hat I'm wearing.

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All photographs and text copyright © 1998, R. Paul Martin