The subtitle of Jesse Archer's new travel memoir You Can Run: Gay, Glam and Gritty Travels in South America, seems to say it all— but what it doesn't tell you is that bubbling beneath the surface of Archer's witty-gritty prose are poignant, unflinching observations of himself and the strange, exotic world around him. Fans of Archer's monthly column in OUT magazine are familiar with the 33-year-old's uncanny ability to mine his personal life for experiences that everyone can relate to, and You Can Run delivers the same soulful, hilarious writing, but with a dash of good old fashioned gay-boy wanderlust.
Windy City Times: Do the columnists for OUT magazine ever hang out and get drunk together and flirt with porn stars?
Jesse Archer: Ha! No—but I have hung out with Josh Kilmer-Purcell ( author of I Am Not Myself These Days ) . He's really cool. We'll be out at a bar and he'll admit he has an alcohol problem and then I admit I have an alcohol problem and then we say cheers and drink up!
WCT: Jesse, why is your column for OUTmagazine untitled?
JA: We couldn't come up with one! For a while we thought about using 'Gay in the Life,' but in the end we thought it would be better PR for me to use my name. [ Laughs ] And also people would then know who to slap!
WCT: One of your more memorable—and controversial— columns is from December of last year when you wrote about the hyper-masculinization of gay men. You posed the simple, but powerful question: 'Why are so many of us becoming the bullies we ran from yesterday?'
JA: I got some flack for that one. People would write things like that, ' I'm not attracted to feminine guys just like I'm not attracted to women.' I wasn't saying that you should be attracted to feminine guys. I just think people should be comfortable enough to be who they are.
WCT: Have people made fun of you for being effeminate?
JA: Growing up, I was harassed for being flamboyant and I was called all the names, 'sissy.' 'fruit,' 'femme.' Today, I go on line and look at the profiles and it's the same thing all over again: 'No femmes, no feminine men.' There have been times where someone will read my profile and they like my pictures and I will respond back and say, 'Sorry, I'm not your type—I'm effeminate.' And they'll respond back with something like 'I should really take that off my profile.'
WCT: Being comfortable with yourself—is that what you had in mind when you titled your travel memoir, You Can Run?
JA: Yep. You Can Run refers to the fact that you can't hide from self. No matter where I go, I can't ever hide from myself. By the way, the subtitle Gay, Glam and Gritty Travels in South America? That was NOT my idea. That was my publisher's idea. I fought it, but as you can see they prevailed in the end. Also, I didn't want my nipple or even my face on the cover of the book. This isn't some vanity project for me; it's what I hope is an important piece of literature but, as you can see, I lost out on that one too.
WCT: 'Banana Fuck'— a story where you are in Bolivia, in the middle of your longest sexual drought, and you end up having sex with a particularly phallic-looking green banana—is absolutely hysterical!
JA: When they read it, I think some of my friends thought it was too vulgar, but I thought I might as well go for broke! I'm not a phony. In the end, I ended up putting back in my torrid, brief affair with a banana.
WCT: Speaking of 'going for broke,' how did you finance your adventures in South America?
JA: I went with $4K and it was my goal to stay as long as I could, as far as that money would get me. I was forced to be a creative adventurer, sleeping in ditches and cutting worms out of my foot. I also worked as a waiter in Buenos Aires for a while and once I taught English to a bunch of old gay men.
WCT: Did you keep a journal during your travels in South America?
JA: I kept several journals. I was always super-paranoid about losing them or my photos. Every time I checked into a new hotel I made sure to hide them under my bed. I was like 'steal my bags, but not my journals!'
WCT: So where are you running to next, Jesse?
JA: A film I co-wrote and star in, A Four-Letter Word, is currently making the rounds on the gay and lesbian film circuit. It's a sort-of sequel to Slutty Summer and the character of Luke ( which I play ) is front and center as the 'party boy looking for love.' I'd also like to write another book, sort of like You Can Run, but on the salacious side of that, I'm thinking of calling it The Whore Wide World. '