Richard, Archie and Luuk returned to Chicago after the weekend. Richard was flying off and the boys were staying at the condo to explore Chicago. John stayed behind to meet with his manager. She indicated that she was really stressed taking care of her aging mother and wasn’t sure she could continue as manager if the number of events wasn’t reduced. She was outstanding dealing with detail and John didn’t want her to resign. He agreed to accept no more reservations until the following May. She did agree to manage the two small weddings already scheduled for inside the house in early December. John mentioned that either she would have to decorate the house or let the couples know that the house would be less decorated for Christmas. She agreed to decorate but not on the scale that was normally done.
When John returned to Chicago he found the condo was crowded. He and Richard gave up their bed to the boys. Richard rose early to exercise and start his painting. He slept on the daybed in his studio which left the living room sofa for John. The arrangement was temporary so John didn’t complain. He continued using the master bathroom which gave him an intimate view of the boy’s morning sexual activities. His coming and going didn’t disturb them. He enjoyed watching Luuk top Archie in the soft morning light. Richard brought his camera in a couple of times as the boys were going at it. On one occasion he had me open the windows but leave the sheers closed. He wanted movement behind the boys. Their presence seemed to intensify the boy’s passion.
The big surprise came when an email arrived from Raj. He wrote that he had been unexpectedly furloughed for six months but he still had his job. Richard emailed him the proposed dates for the trip to India and informed him that Archie’s boyfriend, Luuk, would be traveling with us. Three days later Raj wrote, “Can I bring my boyfriend? He knows all about the photo project and he’ll pay his expenses.” Richard reported the development over dinner the following Saturday night. John was concerned that the group was too big but Archie gave the response of a twenty-something, “The more the merrier.”
When John was reserving flights to Mumbai he decided to connect in Newark to get a non-stop. Richard used his airline discount for Archie and Luuk. John reserved business class for Richard and himself and offered to pay for business class for Archie and Luuk. They said they would be fine in economy. John sent Raj the details so he could arrange his arrival at approximately the same time as the group. On a second itinerary John reserved their continuing trip to Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and back to Chicago. The only leg of the trip that was separately ticketed was the flight from Mumbai to Bangkok. He assumed that Raj and his boyfriend would fly back to London from Mumbai. A couple of days later Raj wrote asking for the complete itinerary because he and his boyfriend were going all the way to Hong Kong which was where his boyfriend’s family lived. John secured four Indian government-issued visas for the group since Raj and his boyfriend coming from the UK wouldn’t need them. Visas weren’t needed for the other countries.
Luuk had no problem finding temporary work as a surgical nurse. His H-1B visa came through within a week because he had international registered nurse credentials. Instead of looking for a job in Chicago he applied to several surgical clinics in southwest Michigan. Each clinic wanted him even if it was only for a few of months. That solved the housing crunch. Archie and Luuk moved into the Michigan house. Archie found a job waiting tables. Archie called a couple of days after Luuk started work and asked permission to have his father move into the house. Apparently there had been a fire in his dad’s apartment complex and there was extensive smoke and water damage. John was reluctant but told Archie as long as it was temporary. John was concerned that Archie’s father would want to stay after they left on their trip.
John asked Archie to have his father call him. John wanted to make clear that the rules and expectations were clear. He was direct and said, “Mr. Webster, I understand you would like to move into our house while your apartment is cleaned.” He confirmed that was true. “I don’t mean to be unfriendly but I told Archie that I was OK with you moving in as long as the boys were there. As you probably know we are leaving mid-December for a trip to India and beyond.” He confirmed that he was aware of the plans. “You have to move out when the boys leave. We do not allow smoking in the house. As I have told the boys we don’t allow parties when we’re not there.” He seemed fine with my requests and indicated that he thought his apartment would be ready by the end of October.
Even though he agreed John didn’t feel right about the situation. Unannounced one Friday night he drove to Michigan and found Archie’s father and three other men playing cards and smoking at the dining room table. He went into the kitchen and found the sink filled with dirty dishes. He decided Archie would have to deal with his father. After Archie finished his shift at the restaurant he arrived and saw John’s car. He rushed into the study where John was seething as he watched CNN. He knew without John saying anything, “OK, he will be gone tomorrow. I’ll go tell them to wrap up their game.” Archie walked straight toward his father and the other men. John could hear loud voices but when he walked in only Archie and his father were there. He was not polite, “Mr. Webster you are no longer welcome.”
His father said to Archie, “You bunch of faggots. I’ll be gone tomorrow.”
“No, you are gone now. Please go get your things and be on your way. I suggest you apologize to your son. He is a fine young man and you don’t deserve him.”
Archie had tears in his eyes as he watched his father walk out of the room. Ten minutes later they heard his old car roar off spinning gravel. Archie said, “John, I am so sorry. Until he moved in I didn’t realize what a jerk he had become. I’ll make sure he doesn’t come here even if Luuk and I have to get physical with him.”
“Don’t do that. Call the police and tell them he is trespassing on private property and have the locks changed.” John calmed down and, fortunately, Richard arrived to paint some fall scenes. The boys posed for him for several beautiful pencil sketches which he then water colored. He decided to make high quality lithographs of a series of four which he displayed at a fall art fair in Saugatuck. He sold them in sets of four and sold sixteen sets. A good friend bought the originals for $200 each. Richard kept one set of the lithographs which he hung in the boy’s bedroom.
October turned out not to be so good for John. He was back to working out regularly but felt unusually tired during his regular workout routine. He mentioned his physical condition to Richard who insisted that John schedule a full checkup which he hadn’t had in a couple of years. First, he saw his general practice doctor who performed an EKG. After reviewing the results the doctor ordered an MRI. Luuk suggested John come to Michigan to the clinic where he worked. Fortunately, John’s Medicare supplemental plan included Luuk’s clinic which was an affiliate of the St. Joseph Hospital in Benton Harbor. While Luuk wasn’t an MRI technician he stayed with John during the procedure.
The results were not good. John had major blockage of two main arteries and some minor blockage of another. In conferring with the cardiologist she recommended inserting two stints. Luuk assured John it was a normal procedure and insisted that he strictly follow her orders regarding taking blood thinner for a week before the scheduled procedure. Luuk assured John that the physicians in the clinic were skilled at the procedure. John didn’t sleep well before the procedure because he was concerned that his recovery would mess up plans for the trip. After the procedure he recovered in Michigan where Luuk and Archie nursed him back to a normal state of health.
Luuk insisted that John begin a minimal exercise regiment after three days. By the end of the month John was doing his regular exercise routine using less weight than before. Luuk was insistent that John not strain his heart muscle. John had more energy and felt like he was back to normal. When he returned to the cardiologist for a follow-up she agreed he was on the right course. He asked her about the effects of a long overseas flight. She suggested walking the aisles, at least, once every two hours. With seats reserved in business class that would be easy to accomplish.
On December 12 John received a Whatsup message from Raj the he and his boyfriend, Alex, had arrived in Mumbai. For the four of them the nonstop flight on United took fifteen and a half hours but with the time change they arrived twenty-four hours later. John followed the doctor’s suggestion and walked back to Archie and Luuk and encouraged one of them to take his seat. One or the other took his seat without objection on the condition that John would wake them when he wanted his seat back. John did that twice after each of them got a good long nap. Raj’s message stated that they would be outside immigration when the four of them arrived. Immigration took forty-five minutes and their visas were in order. Raj and Alex were smiling and waving as they emerged from security.
They gave each other warm hugs but, as Raj said, the Indian people seemed less than approving of a group of men showing affection. Alex was a strikingly handsome Asian man with light skin and piercing brown eyes.
Raj had hired a large black SUV to take the group around from site to site. Our first stop was Raj grandparent’s estate. He had referred to their home as a house. The driver entered through a guarded front gate with manicured lawns and gardens flanking the drive leading to the imposing mansion. Raj said his grandparents would have welcomed the group except they had gone to his sister’s home in Australia to assist with his recently born nephew. The house wasn’t empty because a full staff was on duty. John wondered how photographing the boys in the nude would go over.
The following morning after a fitful sleep caused by the time change Richard met with the boys at 9:30 to discuss the shooting schedule. Our stay in Mumbai was planned for six days but Richard wanted to concentrate the shooting in the first three days hoping the weather would cooperate. The interior of the mansion was dark with heavy velvet drapes that obscured the light. The furniture was heavy and with dark upholstery. When Richard told Raj his concern Raj was undeterred and called his movie producer friend to find out how to secure theatrical lights.
Richard felt better and instead of shooting at the mansion he had Raj call the historic Taj Mahal Hotel not far from the Gateway to India arch to see if he could shoot in and around the hotel. He apparently spoke to the manager who when finding out Raj’s last name became totally agreeable. Lighting was set up in a lovely courtyard with arches covered with lush greenery. The boys, except for Raj, were disturbed by the beggars who would not leave them alone. Raj clearly explained that the best way to handle the beggar’s intrusion was not to make eye contact with them. He flatly said, “Pretend they’re not there.” For friendly, polite western boys that was hard.
Richard decided to pair up the boys as originally planned – Archie with Raj and Luuk with Alex. Since Alex was taller than Luuk they made for a handsome ethically diverse couple. Rarely is the Asian the taller in such a couple. In the SUV they each had three sets of clothes which they changed into not only in the car but also in a room the hotel manager provided. He was happy that a professional photographer was taking pictures in his lobby. He asked for Richard’s card and inquired about seeing the photos when they were completed. In the public spaces outside of the hotel the mass of humanity made it difficult to get the couples in poses that didn’t include nosey faces looking into the camera lens. After unsuccessfully trying to pose a few shots he gave up and encouraged the boys to be casual. He would shoot when he thought he had a shot.The boys were getting hungry. Raj suggested entertaining the group at his father’s club for tea. The SUV drove under the porte-cochere of the early 20th century stone mansion. Two turbaned doormen opened the doors and the driver was directed to the parking area. The dark paneled entry had tall dark ceilings with painted scenes from Indian mythology. Deep red velvet curtains hung over fifteen foot frosted windows. A turbaned Sikh maitre d’ inquired of Raj’s name. He seemed to genuflect when he heard Raj’s name. He promptly seated the group to the stares from the older traditionally dressed Indian men and western men in suits and ties. John wanted to be careful about what the boys ate and drank because he didn’t want stomach or intestinal problems. Raj assured everyone, The food is prepared for western palettes and would be sandwiches and dessert because it was traditional English tea time. The tradition of afternoon tea remained even after the British left India in 1948.” He directed the waiter to bring not only tea but also an assortment of juices and soft drinks. What was eaten and drunk was adequate but the boys were still hungry. Raj said there was food and plenty of beer and spirits available at his grandparent’s house.
After tea the driver drove through the confusion of downtown Mumbai to get back Raj’s grandparents estate. Richard was hoping that the sun would be right for an evening shoot since several hours of sun remained. Discussion in the SUV between Richard and Raj related to a trip either to the Elephata caves or the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. In consultation with the SUV driver it was decided that the day after tomorrow they would drive to the Elephata caves which was about an hour and a half in heavy Mumbai traffic. Raj reported that the trip to Ellora was too far unless a private tour company was hired to fly the group there. That idea was scratched and Elephata would be the destination.
The technicians were waiting at the estate to set the lighting up at Richard’s direction. He decided to use the formal living room for the shoot. The lights were erected and the technicians left. The boys disappeared to nap. Richard sat quietly considering his approach. John sat next to him but fell asleep because of the stress of everything being so new and different. When John awoke Richard was drinking tea. He rang a small bell and an older short man in balloon pants came running into the room. Richard seemed surprised but asked him for more hot water and tea. His request was promptly fulfilled.
Raj and Alex appeared first around 6:30 when the sun was shining on a corner of the garden which was well adorned with a multitude of colorful plants. Richard got up to roust Archie and Luuk because he didn’t want to miss the natural light. When he returned he said to Raj, “I want to shoot you guys doing intimate things but clothed. Does the house staff need to be alerted?”
Raj said, “I understand you have met Mr. Karala?”
“Is he the man who brought my tea?”
“Yes, he is. He’s the house manager. I told him that when we are in the garden or shooting pictures inside the house servants should be given the day off or stay with him in the kitchen. I told him some of the pictures the Indian people would not understand. He understood. I know he will do as he has been instructed. He has worked for my grandparents for over forty years.”
“What did you tell your grandparents?”
“I didn’t tell them anything. They were happy we were coming to use the house and were excited to visit their new grandson in Australia.”
By this time Archie and Luuk had arrived. The boys were dressed in casual button down collared shirts except for Alex who had on a sleeveless tee shirt. They wore colored Bermuda length shorts except for Luuk who wore shorts shorter and tighter than the others. His bulge in front was noticeable. Richard told the boys he wanted them barefoot. Outside John was carrying the reflector. Richard worked with Archie and Raj for a long time as the evening sun shone on their faces. He had them kiss, hug and lay in a hammock. As the sun was slipping away he put Archie and Luuk together for a few shots and did the same for Raj and Alex. He announced that he wanted to do more in the morning as the sun rose which would hit the other side of the garden. Archie apprehensively said, “What time?”
Richard said, “Six o’clock.” There was a collective moan. “Tomorrow is going to be a full day of shooting inside the house and out in the garden.”
“I’ll let Mr. Karala know. He may want to tell the house maids to stay home.” Inside Mr. Karala was waiting with the alcohol tray.
John asked Raj if Mr. Karala could make a brandy old fashion. Raj said, “Sure, whatever you want.” He made it perfectly. The boys each had beer except for Alex who asked for a Coca Cola which Mr. Karala didn’t have. He offered fruit juice which satisfied Alex. Richard joined John for a brandy old fashion. Cocktail time was followed by a formal dinner of a variety of Indian food some quite spicy. The lamb stew with curry was delicious and not very spicy. Chicken curry masala was spicy. The vandeloo, like a vegetable quiche with cumin, was a favorite. With enough rice and nam the boys were satisfied.
The following morning no one reported stomach problems. In the garden the four young men were partially clothed or naked. And they were variously hard as Richard took multiple pictures of the pairs switching off from one to the other. Inside he had the boys naked and started shooting them sensually kissing and petting, intimately intertwined, and doing mock intercourse. Richard was constantly telling John to move one light or another to get rid of shadows. Richard was unconcerned whether the boy’s dicks were hard or soft. At noon Richard said, “We’re done until sunset.” Richard’s vision for this project was not clear to John who decided to wait and ask questions later.
The following day the SUV arrived at the house at 8:30 for the drive to Elephata Island. The caves date from the 6th century C.E. They are carved caves with massive elephant sculptures. The photo shoot took about two hours before the rain started. Even though the boys were hungry the decision was made to the estate for lunch. Raj called Mr. Karala to let him know that cook should start to prepare. Lunch was similar to dinner and preceded a nap.
The group planned to be in India for two more days but Richard concluded he had enough photos. They became regular tourist with our SUV driver driving to many well known sites. Poverty and squalor were everywhere they went. The beggars never stopped pushing when the group walked from place to place. More pushing and shoving crowds were worse in the tightly confined, colorful, noisy markets. The estate was their retreat. On the last night before the flight to Bangkok there was a banquet in honor of Raj’s parents who had flown in on their private jet from their villa at the Taj Exotica in Goa.
Raj’s parents were happy to see Raj and meet his friends. Because John was older than Richard and the boys Raj’s parents thought John was the boy’s chaperone. They didn’t ask and John didn’t tell them he was the lover of the photographer. Richard selected some of the first day’s pictures at the Taj Mahal Hotel which he showed Raj’s parents. Richard acted shocked when Raj said, “I told them about the other pictures. Can you show them some of those?”
Richard said to Raj, “Really?”
Raj said, “Richard, I told you my parents know I’m gay. They’re OK with it.”
Richard looked at Alex, “Are you OK if I show them the pictures?”
“If Raj wants them to see me I guess it’s OK.” Raj’s parents remained politely quiet as Richard showed them ten or twelve pictures on his computer. Raj’s parents sat close to the computer screen but said little until the slide show was over. Raj’s father said, “We would like to buy a large, framed, matted picture of, I think, picture number three. Can we see that one?”
Richard reversed the slide show to picture number three. Raj father said, “That one.” His mother was smiling and shaking her head. The picture was Raj and Alex looking at each other each with a slight smile. There was plenty of skin showing but their dicks were not clearly visible. John made a note in his notebook so Richard wouldn’t forget. Raj’s parents left for their bedroom followed by a maid and a valet. When Richard and John were in their bedroom John said, “That was very unusual, for sure. They seemed completely nonplused by what Raj did. A culture that is not affectionate seems comfortable with artistic porn.”
“What I do is not porn!” Richard snapped sarcastically, “It’s art.”
The next morning after breakfast Raj’s parents watched as the SUV pulled away for the airport and the trip to Bangkok.