Does Joe consider himself a metrosexual?

Week of August 31, 2006

 Hey Joe: Do you consider yourself a metrosexual? I do.

Jake Gyllenhaal, on location in Beirut, Lebanon

The word "metrosexual" threw me for a loop. I had to research its source to learn if it fit the category of words such as homosexual, bisexual, transvestite, etc. It fits the saying, "The more things change, the more they remain the same."

During my earlier teenage years, an older man who found himself attracted to a younger man was referred to as a "nasty old man" or, in other words, "sweet lips," because of his desire to perform oral sex. In most cases, affairs between the two meant quick cash for the younger man. At the same time, many men were as feminine as women. I will never forget the day my buddy and I walked along one of Brooklyn's few streets and faced a fellow headed in our direction who was out-swishing Halle Berry. As he neared us, I said to him, "So help me, I'm gonna rape you." His reply as he passed was, "And so rape me, I'm gonna help you." Following these verbal exchanges was one big laugh as we went our separate ways.

Conversely, women attracted to other women were labeled dykes, a term passed on to us by some older dude with more experience related to the sexual activity of women. In my setting, however, we hadn't arrived at such a level. As far back as I recall, I've never had a problem with people having different sexual preferences. Most gay people I've encountered treated me the same as so-called normal people.

However, as time progressed the big words became attached. "Heterosexual," for example, was followed by phrases such as "coming out of the closet." In my hometown during that period of my young life, people with different sexual preferences never came out of the closet. They maintained a rather acceptable lifestyle while at the same time doing their thing. In the country today they've become a big issue. Yet they can be found in most positions of power, beginning with the church. They only want America to stand up and reverse the lie about liberty and justice for all.

Since I've done research on this word "metrosexual" and found it to be acceptable, I can further elaborate on it. There is a possibility that I helped initiate it years back and was completely unaware. During a big portion of my life, in baseball and out, many times I was referred to as a stylish dresser: sweaters pushed up to my elbows, shirt sleeves tailored three-quarter length and firmly fit pants. In all probability there were those who thought I was sweeter than Brer Rabbit syrup, but at the same time I received many compliments. However, I am much too old for that now. When recalling the past in reference to these big, sexually explicit words, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn?t know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman?s Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry?s most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they?d arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to heyjoe@riverfronttimes.com. If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

 
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