The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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February 22, 2009


First, I must tell you that my college days were nothing like the story I wrote years later called College Daze! That was written with the benefit of hind-sight, looking back on how it might have been If I had been “out”.

But, I was not out. This, despite the Creative Writing teacher who certainly was! I enjoyed his class and learned much, but as a person he had a couple of drawbacks: he was “nellie”, and he was too old for my already developing taste for peers and younger.

I was befriended by two older girls, who did show up in the story: these were the first lesbians I encountered in my life, even though I heard the term “lesbian” much later. One of these gals was a sort of “plain Jane”, far from ugly and feminine in her own way. Her mate was one of the ugliest women I had ever met! She was the butch one. Still, it was clear they both adored each other, and I’ve often wondered what became of them. I thought vaguely that guys might have similar relationships, and given the chance I would have related in any way he chose with the pole-vaulter that year! But my on-going infatuation with Jim and (and his nice dick), his camera, (and his nice dick) and his old cars (and his nice dick) took care of my libido.

So, I sailed through two years at Junior College with fair grades despite almost no studying. I had a knack for figuring out what the teachers wanted, and I fed it back to them. All except the “instructor” for my American History course. The man was a fervent Republican which led to many diversions from the topic, and the class occurred directly after lunch. I slept through most of his dreary lectures, and flunked the course cold. This meant I did not graduate from JC (American History was a requirement, and I had to repeat—and pass—it several years later). No doubt my Dad was disappointed, but I didn’t really care.

In an off moment somewhere along the JC years I submitted a poem to a competition sponsored by a small private college in southern California. The work garnered an honorable mention, so I decided to leave home for the remaining two years of college. I was in for something of a shock!


Set, in those days, among a few surviving orange groves, the University of Redlands was said to be the “best Methodist school the Baptists have”. I got in on decent grades, my honorably-mentioned poem, and not much else. (Dad’s money helped!) Rather unexpectedly, I gravitated to the Music Department because of the large pipe organ in the chapel: I had always loved pipe organ music, and so to my Dad’s dismay I jumped from Science to Music. I quickly deduced that I could no longer give the instructors “what they wanted”, because what the organ professor wanted was that I could read music and play the damn thing, which of course I could not do. I struggled along, but had no real musical performance talent.

The organ department then had about 30 students, the music school perhaps a hundred. Of the organ students, I was to learn, all were queer, and of the other musicians, many were. Unfortunately, I learned all this just as was leaving Redlands! Throughout the academic year I was there, when I needed “relief” I drove my battered old Nash out into the hills and flung my seed upon the ground, for want of any better place.

Most of those wank sessions were enlivened by fantasies about an absolutely gorgeous boy living in Cortner Hall one floor below.

However, not one soul ever approached me, tried to being me out, or even mentioned what was going on right under my own nose: wild parties (off campus) which I expect I would have enjoyed immensely.

I did learn one important lesson at Redlands. The catalogue said it was “alcohol free”, and having been raised by my tee-totaling parents, I thought I’d fit in well. Yet, within a week or two of arriving and settling into Cortner, someone suggested we have a party in my room one Saturday night. Vodka and orange juice materialized: vodka was thought to be undetectable by smell, so we would be “safe” having a simple party. Unfortunately, the group assigned ME the job of bar-tender, so I was making “screwdrivers” with a ratio of 4 to 1. That’s four parts vodka to 1 part OJ! Things went along OK for a while, but suddenly the other fellows in the group disappeared! About the same time, I realized I was drunk, never having been so before. We had all consumed far more than we should, and too rapidly: the others fertilized the bushes in the quad, but I managed to stagger to the terlet before becoming very, very sick. Repeatedly! It took me a week to recover, and I have never been anywhere near that drunk since. I reasoned that if that’s what alcohol does to you, I want no part of it!

About a week before departing Redlands for summer vacation,  one of the organ grad students who lived off-campus asked me to dine at his apartment, and suddenly, all was revealed. He told me about homosexuals (first time I’d heard the word), lesbians (ditto), and many, many other enlightening things about “being gay” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The revelation for me was that there were other people just like me, who preferred to look at and (hopefully) interact sexually with other boys. My informant regaled me with tales of his own activities, played old Ray Bourbon records, explained the rudiments of cruising and made it clear I could relax and begin to think in terms of being queer without worrying much about it. He did not “bring me out” in the sense of having sex with me: like most everyone I’ve ever met, he was not attracted to me. I had simply triggered his GayDar, and he assumed I was out!

I left the University of Redlands intending to return, even though I sensed it was not the right place for me. It was something of a “rich-kids” school, and it was costing my Dad a lot of money for me to be there. It was super-abundantly clear I would never be another Virgil Fox, even though I had at least one prerequisite: I was queer. I was, however, not yet willing to let other people know it.

I had gotten a summer job in Santa Clara, California, where my life took another turn.

To be continued:  I find the way to San Jose.




Written by Bruce

December 13th, 2009 at 11:09 am

Posted in College,Coming Out