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Photo by Matt OttoNot much has changed at Pistons since we were last here fouryears ago, before we finally found a decent, long-term boyfriend and got partnered and no longer felt the innate urge to come here for fresh, pud-pounding material—that's what the Internet is for! But it was nice to revisit one of our old cruise haunts, and on a theme night, no less: "Flannel Fantasy—Lumber Jack OFF!" screamed the Long Beach bar's website.
Pistons has been around since 1968 under one name or another, but it's always catered to specific kinds of gay men—the heavyset, the hairy, the leather-clad, the uniform-fetish-types; your average working-class, blue-collar queerboy. It's everything the Boom Boom Room is not (though both bars do tend to play the same crappy generic, dance music), filled on any given weekend night with big, burly guys who look like they could be working security at punk rock shows. On one of our first times here, we sat and ogled a cute, young, bearded bear and thought no way could he be gay—until he let off the highest, queeniest laugh we'd ever heard in our lives. That was when we knew we'd found a home.
Everyone at Pistons is friendly, too—"Can I touch you?" we overheard—and they'd be that way even if their ultimate goal wasn't to get inside your Levis. We took note of the fabulous construction-site décor, with huge, cheeky signs saying things like BEAR XING and CAUTION: OPEN MANHOLE, and the collection of personalized plates only "members of the club" could know the true meaning of, such as BEARCUB and LIL BEHR. And we loved the set of handcuffs dangling from a beam, certain to meet a willing pair of wrists before last call. We even briefly thought of returning next weekend and entering the Big Butt contest.
But mostly, we were here to people-ogle as intensely as possible without letting men think we were flirting—or worse, interested. We did not come here to chat, which is why we kept our phone handy, in case we needed to bail ourselves out by faking an important incoming call.
Because like all queers—and breeders, for that matter—we're picky. We wanted no interaction at all with Flashdance Bear, who strutted around the outdoor patio in impossibly tight green Spandex shorts and a tank top. Nor Matrix Bear, in his extra-furry handlebar moustache and his long, black leather coat. Nor Longhaired Hippie Bear, who kept glancing over at us before finally realizing we weren't glancing back.
But somehow, a guy named Barry crashed through our defense mechanism and started conversing with us. With nowhere to flee, he insisted on giving us a palm reading, which was really just his way of copping a feel of any part of our naked manflesh.
"You're not a vain person," his reading went. "You care about other people. You'll make more money next year than you will this year. Good things will happen to you this year. You have a very attractive beard."
"Are you single?"
"No, I'm partnered."
"Well, I respect that."
Barry left eventually, and our friend Jubal came by to protect us. Not much else went on—we recall a raffle and some sort of silhouette show involving an obscenely exaggerated phallus. We left around midnight and headed home to the warmest, furriest, most loving arms we know—our dog's.
PISTONS, 2020 E. Artesia, Long Beach, (562) 422-1928. open Mon., 6 p.m.-Midnight; Tues.-Thurs., 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.-3 a.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.-2 a.m. 21+.