High 5 from a bison

(After the cartoons and the lexicography, John Rechy will take this posting into the world of mansex, in some detail and in very plain talk; that section is not for kids or the sexually modest, but I’ll warn you when it’s looming on the horizon.)

Two bison greet each other in a John Baynham cartoon with a wonderful pun:


That’s numbers (roughly ‘amount’, but as a PL C noun) — and indeed large numbers of buffalo did once roam the plains of North America — vs. numbers referring to physical models, or simulacra, of symbols for certain abstract mathematical entities — in this case, the natural numbers. Such physical models are also familiar: think of the letters in the HOLLYWOOD sign, or the numbers on the building at 666 Fifth Ave. in NYC (with its own kind of fame as a Jared Kushner property). But people don’t walk around with, much less inside, giant versions of such models. That’s deliciously absurd.

Looking at the lexical items involved will take us deep into the lexicographic weeds and then to the secret places of mansex, starting with the dim recesses of Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

(Hat tip to Kim Darnell.)

Side note on the exchange of greetings. The exchange

Mornin’. / Hey.

between the buffalos isn’t necessary for the pun to work, but it still does useful work, by humanizing the creatures: they’re not drawings of real buffalos in an absurd situation, they’re cartoon buffalos — talking and engaging in conversational routines,  just like us, only in ungainly ungulate form — in an absurd situation.

Further side note, on Baynham. Before I wander into the lexicographic weeds.

I haven’t found anything of substance about Baynham, his life and career, but you can find other cartoons. He’s fond of puns. And he’s published at least one book:

(#2) 101 Signs You’re Spending Too Much Time with Your Cat (1999)

Basic lexicography. NOAD on the noun number:

1 [a] an arithmetical value, expressed by a word, symbol, or figure, representing a particular quantity and used in counting and making calculations and for showing order in a series or for identification: she dialed the number carefully | an even number. [b] (numbersdated arithmetic: the boy was adept at numbers.

2 [a] a quantity or amount: the company is seeking to increase the number of women on its staff | the exhibition attracted vast numbers of visitors. [b] (a number of) several: we have discussed the matter on a number of occasions. [c] a group or company of people: there were some distinguished names among our number. [d] (numbers) a large quantity or amount, often in contrast to a smaller one; numerical preponderance: the weight of numbers turned the battle against them.

3 [a] chiefly British a single issue of a magazine: the October number of “Travel.”. [b] a song, dance, piece of music, etc., especially one of several in a performance: they go from one melodious number to another. [c] [usually with adjective or noun modifier] informal a thing, typically an item of clothing, of a particular type, regarded with approval or admiration: Yvonne was wearing a little black number.

4 a distinction of word form denoting reference to one person or thing or to more than one. [AZ: the linguistic term]

The numbers of Large numbers of buffalo once roamed the plains is sense 2a.

(#3) A bison herd: buffalo in large numbers-2a

(#4) Large numbers-1a(iii) at 666 Fifth Ave.

(#5) The letter counterpart to #4

The numbers of I gazed up at the large numbers on the side of 666 Fifth Ave. falls, faute de mieux, under sense 1a, but that might not be entirely obvious, since at least three things are lumped together in 1a:

1a(i): an abstract value, as in The number after 6 is 7 and 23 is a prime number.

1a(ii): a word, symbol of figure representing such a value, as in The number on the slip was blurred. Number in this sense is concrete.

1a(iii): a physical object in the shape of that symbol; a symbol-simulacrum — as in I wear my favorite number on a chain around my neck; it weighs 2 ounces.

Subsense (iii) is not, however, one you’d expect dictionaries to list, because it’s the product of a regular metonymy: for any noun referring to a concrete entity, there’s a homophonous noun denoting a simulacrum of that entry. Given penguin referring to a bird, there’s penguin referring to the many penguin-simulacra that populate my house, like this one:

(#6) The penguin on my work table

Still, it’s sense (iii) that’s operative in the cartoon. And the distinction between (i) and (ii) is a big one — also, (ii) is what gets us to (iii) —  which shouldn’t be ignored.

Sense 3c. Having embarked on a critique of the entry, I fixed upon an obvious gap further down in it, in sense 3c, whose definition mentions only things, when in fact this sense is quite common with reference to people.

Not to worry; GDoS has it covered. For the noun number:

— 1 of an individual or individuals

(a) (orig. US) a person, usu. a young woman, usu. in a sexual context; esp. as hot number below [1st cite 1878-9]

(b) a person, in a non-sexual context. [1st cite 1949]

(c) (US gay) a potential or actual partner for casual sex, picked up from the street, bar, or baths. [1st cite 1963 Rechy City of Night … Look at that number near me; hes been staring a hole through me. ]

(d) (US) a romantically involved couple. [1st cite 1977 … Her sister and Jon Lon had been a number.]

— 2 an item of clothing, e.g. a dainty pink number

There are further specialized senses, and the noun hot number:

…  sexually attractive woman or in gay use man … [1st cite 1896]

And that brought me to John Rechy’s second novel, Numbers (1967):

(#7) The steamily homoerotic cover

The title is in fact a pun of sorts, to be understood as conveying two senses of numbers at once: the amount or number sense 2a and the ‘trick for mansex’ sense from GDoS. The narrator of Numbers is seeking male sexual partners, lots of them.

This is where the X portion of our entertainment begins. I’ll insert a page break, for you to leave.

Cruising in Griffith Park. From my 6/8/15 posting “Guys in heat”, in a section on Numbers, with a description of the book from Rechy’s own website:

(#8) The Fern Dell in Griffith Park

Through those shadowy alcoves [in a huge rambling park — Griffith Park], as a gallery of sexhunters emerges, he sets out to discover whether he is really still handsome and desirable, whether the passage of time –- as terrifying to the male hustler as to the aging dancer or ingenue — has made visible inroads on that svelte and muscular body in which he has always taken such pride.

His initial forays into the all-night theaters along L.A.’s strip and through the erotic beaches and at a synthetic motel have proven to Johnny that his sexual attraction is still great. But the final proof resides in numbers. In an effort to contain the threatening anarchy, he sets himself a rigorous time-table — ten days — and goal: thirty “numbers” to prove his mettle.

The narrator is strictly a stud — he doesn’t kiss, he doesn’t suck cock — who hustles fags.

The guy who’s aiming to collect as many guys on his cock as he can is a familiar type — you might say, a familiar number — to me. From an only somewhat fictionalized account of an encounter of mine at the baths in San Jose in 1996, in my AZBlogX posting of 10/3/10 “Superbowl Sunday (Part II)”

Once again I stop at the television room, this time to study a remarkable scene there: a guy displaying a prodigiously big dick and collecting cocksuckers. At first, I think of him as The Collector. Then later as Numbers Man, once I realize that what drives him is the accumulation of guys on his dick.

It goes both ways. The Rechian numbers man racks up receptive partners, and that boosts his ego, makes him feel both desirable and powerful. Meanwhile, what I’ll call the Ironian numbers man (after a master in the role, Marcus Iron) racks up insertive partners, and that boosts his ego, makes him feel both desirable and successful.

From my 2/9/16 posting “Morning names: wiles, Wiles”, with a section from photographer and porn entrepreneur Paul Morris about his model Marcus Iron, who is, like Morris himself, an ubercocksucker and a devotee of glory holes:

This was the third big cock that Marcus sucked off during this day’s gloryhole session (I believe this was a day when Marcus took five loads).

An ubercocksucker knows the numbers of the numbers he’s sucked off, and an uberbottom at a gangbang knows the numbers of the numbers who’ve fucked him.

Numbers men, Rechian or Ironian, derive great satisfaction from big numbers. (Part of the numbers-man profile is that the count is of men, not occasions; repeated sexual encounters with a single partner would just be a waste of time, in their view.)

I’m not recommending them as models, just reporting on them as a phenomenon.



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