There’s only one story in the saga of Sen. Larry Craig that involves actual dick-sucking, and it happens to be set in Union Station.
The tale involves an anonymous 40-year-old ex-Republican. Since August of 2004, this man has claimed—in digitally altered audio, of course—to have had a very frustrating few minutes with the senator in Union Station’s men’s rooms. He alleged that he twice tried to get it on with Craig. In both instances, the trysts were interrupted when the stalls started filling up.
But still. Just about every news organization from MSNBC to the Washington Post has picked up the story. They generally hide behind an attribution to a suddenly famous blogger, Mike Rogers, who has reported extensively on these aborted hookups. At this point, pretty much any piece on the Craig situation must reference the train-station-restroom moment, as in this recent piece from the Post: “Rogers disclosed in October that he had spoken with men who said they’d had sexual encounters with Craig, including in the restrooms at Union Station.”
The reportorial overkill has amped up the romance factor at Union Station. Imagine the thrill of it—getting off in a nearly 100-year-old historic building with its 96-foot-high barrel-vaulted, coffered ceilings adorned with 70 pounds of 22-karat gold leaf. There’s fast food too, so you get a blowjob and Sbarro. Sexy.
Wrong. There are other places to take up Craig’s legacy. Safer places. Cleaner places. Places with just as much historic significance. We’re talking park land. Go wide-stance it in the great outdoors.
Union Station is not for amateurs.
1. The Kid Factor
“Uncle Steve? Where are you?” a boy says from a stall.
“The middle,” replies—I’m guessing—Uncle Steve.
“I’m here,” the boy says. “Are you the one with the key [ring]?” he asks.
“Yes,” Uncle Steve says. “See the one…?”
“That’s you?” the boy says.
“That’s me,” Uncle Steve says.
Kids go to Union Station. It’s a fact. They are tourists. They are hanging out at the food court or the shitty movie theater. Kids go to the bathroom. When kids go, they’re not quiet about it. They will insist on talking to Uncle Steve, or they’ll gasp at the sight of a badly picked stall. Kids will do play-by-play. They will complain about the poop and the smell. That’s what kids do.
A 38-year-old man who wants to be called “Charlie” tells me one night while sitting alone at DC Eagle, a bar on New York Avenue NW, that he’s been arrested three times for messing around in public—in Mesa, Ariz., Long Beach, Calif., and Arlington. He doesn’t seem to care about his criminal record. He says he’s a “socialist” and just likes the thrill of fucking in public. But Union Station, Charlie says, is off-limits. “No one does it there,” he claims. “Because it’s full of breeders and kids. Who wants to get hard in front of kids?”
There are two public men’s rooms—the Gate A bathroom is upstairs; the other is downstairs near the Johnny Rockets.
It’s around 9 p.m. in the food-court stalls. A boy and his father take up the stall next to me. The kid starts goofing off, drawing a reprimand from Dad. “No means no,” says the father. A lesson for us all?
2. Passengers Prefer to Dump at the Station
I am being cruised.
Our eyes catch for a second. I am washing my hands for no real reason. He’s staring up from a urinal.
He is wearing jeans, an all-american jersey T-shirt, and a ballcap fixed over his short brown hair. He has an empty-looking backpack slung over his shoulders like it’s the first day of school.
He follows me out onto Union Station’s concourse and walks to the nearest trash can.
He walks past a row of empty seats.
He walks past where I am standing outside Hudson News.
And then he disappears back into the Gate A men’s room.
A minute or two passes before he is back outside pausing among the tourists, commuters, and homeless crowding the concourse. This time, Backpack Boy stands 5 feet from me, inside Hudson News. He could stare at the floor-to-ceiling rack of Harry Potter books or back at the bathroom’s comings and goings. He stares at the bathroom, goes back inside and parks it at his original urinal.
Maybe he’s killing time before boarding the 8:30 Regional to New York. Maybe he’s waiting to pick up his girlfriend. It’s possible he’s working off his Sbarro.
Or he could just be cruising.
I jot down the action in my notebook. Before I can finish, the guy disappears. Game over. There are just too many people around.
People still like to ride trains, despite the cost and the Acela debacle and the fact that the bagel with cream cheese is a stale bagel with cream cheese. They believe in Amtrak’s “All Aboard” slogan and cheesy train names like the California Zephyr, the Texas Eagle, and the Empire Builder. Until we Americans invent a teleporter or solve the traffic problem, 32 million people will continue to pass through Union Station each year.
From 7:30 to 7:40 p.m. on this night, 28 men go to the Gate A restroom.
Even when Union Station appears dead, the bathroom is not. Between 8:45 and 8:55 p.m. on a Wednesday, the Gate A stalls receive 22 visitors, a lot of them still wearing Hill laminates around their necks. And half the stalls were closed down for their daily scrubbing.
This ain’t like the attendance for that last workforce protections subcommittee hearing. Bathrooms are different. Everyone has to go sometime.
No matter how much you want to hook up, the odds are just daunting.
Take Backpack Boy. Chances are he didn’t succeed that night, and he seems like an experienced cruiser. I noticed him only because I’m assigned to camp out there. To take notes and stuff. Maybe he was another reporter.
3. You Will Get Pee on Your Kenneth Coles
In Union Station’s stalls, there are tons of excuses to get handsy. Just look down.
A large black comb wrapped in what appears to be used TP, a Miller Lite can three-quarters empty, a plastic bottle of Smirnoff premium “triple distilled” vodka (one swig left), one bag of cheddar-flavored Goldfish (unopened!), one pair of jeans (dirty), one stubbed cig, a Häagen-Dazs soda cup (empty), one giant TP donut, and one turd smear.
Some people complain. Like the guy at the urinal across from me on a Saturday night: “Damn. Faggot fuck. Shit. Ahh, fuck.…Nasty motherfucker.”
Then I hear the sound of spit hitting urinal water. A moment later, the guy who takes the stall next to mine says:
“Shit out on the toilet seat. Can’t they [have] respect for what they do?” He toughs it out in that stall.
4. You Will Hurt
You want instant gratification? There’s no instant gratification here. You’re gonna have to wait. That means squatting in a stall.
I take one on the Wednesday after the Labor Day holiday—more than enough time for lonely dudes to get horned-up, I figure. At the food-court bathroom, all the good stalls are taken. There are five. I’m left with the one that doesn’t flush. Lucky me, there are no floaters and only limited pee splash on the seat. I wipe it down thoroughly and take up my position. It’s 5:05 p.m., just in time for the commuter rush. I’m feeling lucky.
Seven minutes in, my feet start to tingle and go numb, like they’re made out of Nerf. The guy in the stall to my left is popping pills. The guy to my right is doing some serious toe-curling. I start longing for the sound of the hand dryer. The hand dryer is my friend, my little white noise machine. It has the power to drown out both sound and smell.
Someone yells through the door: “Rápido!” then claps his hands. This is met with sniffles and moans. Fuck you, man. We’re working here.
Fifteen minutes in. I can’t feel my feet at all. I try to shake the ice out of my right foot. Instead, the numbness spreads up my calf.
After a half-hour, I get the idea I should stand up and stretch.
Immediately, I get the sensation of falling. I come within an inch of dipping ass into the bowl. At the last moment, I grip the top of the stall door. Notebook and other stuff fall on the floor, inches from pee drops and toilet paper nubbin.
I start to get concerned that the guy next to me is jerking off. He stopped pissing a long time ago. Yet he is still in the stall, feet facing the toilet. I can see his hairy toes through his sandals. There is the curling, still, and a final intensity. After a while, I start to get paranoid. Every sound, every movement seems dirty. Why are they leaving me out of the good times?
Hairy Toes, a few minutes later, is back in his stall. I hear a soft, sputtery trickle, and then he’s gone. He doesn’t wash his hands. My left foot is an ice block. My forehead starts to sweat.
After nearly an hour, I discover several peepholes.
The TP rack must have been there. Now it’s just the holes where the screws were. I can see into the next stall. This occupies some time. A bonus.
I see a sunset of TP and then pants, then fumbling of pants and a blur of arm and arm hair. No dick. No blowjob.
Ten minutes later, I realize farts can travel through peepholes. It is overwhelming. For several seconds, I can’t breathe. Or rather, choose not to.
After an hour and a half, I have to get up. I do so slowly this time—lesson learned. I do lunges, pressing my right foot against the back of the toilet. Then I do left foot against the toilet. I do mini windmills. I skip the part where I touch my toes. I’m feeling better.
I hear a cop’s radio: “All agents ready. Stand by.” I think they’ve found me. Another 15 minutes go by before I notice that my heart is racing, the pain in my right foot has spread to my butt cheeks. Claustrophobia kicks in. I remind myself that the slit between stall and door is maybe the diameter of a dime.
Amid boredom and paranoia, I start thinking about Hairy Toes and how sandals are just a bad idea. I am alone except for the sound of water running from a sink.
A janitor arrives. I sit up, peel the streamer of TP off my ass, button up my pants, and stumble out. You want a sure thing? Try the jalapeño-cheddar bagel at Au Bon Pain.
5. The After-Hours Party
Saturday at around 11 p.m.—the stalls fill up with mumblers with carts, old coats and work pants, gray goatees, and canes. No walking, talking Abercrombie ads here.
We’re all friends. Or friendly enough to start talking on cell phones and kill more than a half-hour on the can. Let a giant TP donut roll to the edge of the stall. Fuck it. Steal it. Who cares?
People bring their stuff, fill the stall up with it. A day or two later, a guy uses the stall to count his earnings, dropping change into a plastic bag. I can see his wad of singles. Not a bad take. I’ve seen a man park his cart inside the bathroom’s entrance like it’s a handicap spot.
Tonight feels like the saddest after-hours party in the city. After a while—a reasonable period of time—I get up, leave the revelers, and wait outside.
Back inside, a man with a cane sees me standing, waiting for a stall and flips out. I don’t quite understand him. He’s mad at me for simply wanting to take his stall.
I see him again outside. He waves his cane at me. He tells me that he’d fuck me up good if it wasn’t for the fact that his “legs are bad.” I’m pretty sure I could have taken his cane.
End of night tally: I am offered weed, Jordache jeans, and a really complicated story from a dude about needing $12 to prevent the cops from seizing his car. He tells me his name. It sounds like he said, “Everybody calls me Drill.” I am not offered a blowjob or any anonymous drilling.
6. Everything Changed After 9/11
There are cameras everywhere. There are three on the way to the food-court men’s room. One eyeball is focused directly on the entrance. You could be recorded on one of those cameras.
The authorities keep the tapes for a month or so, says Donald Lantz, senior executive vice president of IPC International Corporation, the private security firm that patrols the food-court and shops.
Do you think you can sweat it out for a month? Think IPC International Corporation is just fancy for rent-a-cop agency? Think again, Senator.
The officers of the IPC wear crisp white shirts with patches and flat drill-sergeant-style hats—what the industry calls “Campaign Hats” (they sell for $60 a pop—that’s no joke). They also carry radios and clipboards.
Before they can set one shiny boot in Union Station, the officers go through 48 hours of training that includes “foot patrol,” CPR, “report writing,” and “fire suppression.” But where do men’s fantasies come in?
“Does it cover bathroom stuff?” I ask Lantz. “It would,” he says.
Just past midnight on Monday, I am sitting in the Gate B section when I hear a disturbance coming from the men’s room. It sounds like two men yelling.
IPC white shirts rush over. Amtrak cops zip to it on Segways. They separate the two men. A man in sweatpants complains about St. Es, not getting his meds or getting the wrong meds, and that there are people outside the building who want to kill him. He is let go.
The other, a slightly Eurotrash-looking man, is ordered to stay and have a seat at the closed Sbarro. Plainclothes, a police dog, more Amtrak cops, and more IPC dudes appear. His license is taken. He is questioned.
“I’m sorry,” the man pleads to an Amtrak cop. “I didn’t mean it.”
They let him stew for a good 30 minutes. IPC staff takes a Polaroid of him. Amtrak police let him go.
The man’s crime: pissing against a wall downstairs in the food court, which was closed. The camera caught him. The police just happened to find him in the upstairs bathroom with the ranting, missing-meds guy.
The pissing man would return a short while later with a woman. Both look upset, traumatized. They’ve come to get that Polaroid destroyed. After pleading their case to IPC staff, they leave claiming “everything is OK.”
The man, Lantz says, a few days later via phone, has been potentially barred from Union Station. “Eventually he’ll be able to be there again,” he explains. “But not in the near future.”
While you contemplate how to explain to your constituents that you are temporarily banned from a 100-year-old historic building, there is one bit of good news you should know.
Lantz reports that there are no cameras in the men’s rooms. Only peepholes.
7. Mike Rogers
Do the math.
Gay activist and blogger Mike Rogers has been following Craig’s travels with a jizz mop since he first got that tip about a Union Station blowjob in August 2004.
Rogers took his materials to Idaho. The Idaho Statesman had been investigating Craig’s alleged homosexuality since last fall. And what did they find? One college classmate who claimed the senator came on to him, one anonymous man who claimed Craig had cruised him at an REI, and the original Union Station man. That’s it.
“It took me two years and two months to build a story,” Rogers says. “To do research, to travel. I went to Boise. I went to Seattle. I went to Columbus.”
“The first thing I did was do research on Sen. Craig—about a half a day,” Rogers explains, adding that he Googled the anonymous Union Station man to check him out.
Of his source: “We had a long e-mail relationship and then a phone relationship. To begin with, he called me from a phone with caller ID that matched the name. I knew when I read who he was that I was familiar with his work.”
But Rogers admits he’s not really a reporter. “I used techniques, and I’m convinced. I have a different standard than you. I don’t have [an editor] standing over [me] saying I need more evidence.”
Rogers describes his style as “unconventional.” “Not bad,” he says. “Not good. Just different. I do a different kind of a reporting than the mainstream media.”
Even with the unconventional methods and the reliance on anonymous sources, Rogers could produce only one source for the Statesman’s expose on Craig. So far this anonymous man has not gone public with his identity. And Rogers adds that since the story broke, no one else has come forward to claim they’ve commingled with Craig.
What does this mean for you? A man who doesn’t adhere to the reporting standards of the mainstream media needs another story.
7 1/2. Tucker Carlson May Bash Your Head In
Don’t believe me? Google it.