I had the privilege of taking my first plane ride this past July (shocking, right?) It was not the flying about which I was nervous…rather, the process of arriving to the airport/correct gate on time, seeing a Ku Klux Klan member in the seat next to mine, or someone stealing the $300 in cash I had stored away in my purse – those things provoked my anxiety more than barreling through the air in a compressed, 75-ton tube, 30,000 feet off the ground while traveling 500 miles per hour. Flying? Cake. I have a higher chance of being ambushed by a pushy taxi driver on my bike or contracting HIV via the seeping, plastered sweat dripping down the walls of Hydrate and dying than being on an airplane as it plummets to the earth. Fuck United, though, who, while the plane is still on the ground, teases you with free DirecTV and then takes it away as soon as the plane leaves the ground. $9 to watch TV for four hours? You big ‘ol corporate tease, you. Nevertheless, my first and second airplane rides, from and to Chicago and San Francisco, respectively, were absolutely delightful. I would not be the least bit upset if airplanes were replaced by teleportation devices within 5 years, however. Zzzzzzzzzz.
San Francisco is absolutely stunning. The lush mountains, the cute trollies skipping up and down the hills (fuck those hills, though. FUCK THEM), the constant cool air…it is like nothing I have ever seen. Despite the mountains of architecture, the skipping of a CTA bus hiccuping over a pothole, and the dirty, sewer-smelling on one block / Abercrombie Fierce-smelling air on another, I love Chicago. But, I am constantly reminded that I am still in the midwest; a flat terrain, surrounded by yuppies and trash with the people in the middle striving to be one or the other, and a place where people only from the midwest would want to spend the rest of their lives. I went to San Francisco during my five-day VACATION. You think Britney Spears would spend time in Chicago to escape, expecting to see something she’s never seen before? Don’t get me wrong…the breath of Chicago, its inhabitants, is as fresh and lively as Listerine…but only during 4 months of the year. The other remaining 8 months are spent nearly freezing to death. I’m not so naive as to completely compare a 5-day experience in California to the 2 years I’ve lived in Chicago. However, the professionals with whom I interacted don’t seem as anxious, the bums did not harass me as I walked down the street carrying my very expensive purse (despite hearing rumors that bums in San Francisco equate to New York’s rats), and the views…oh, the views of the city atop Twin Peaks…Your daddy-bought penthouse in Gold Coast ain’t got shit on the view overlooking the most elaborate, exquisite terrain, 1000 feet above the city.
The Castro, which, if you are unfamiliar, is like the Boystown of San Francisco on poppers, was where I met Brice. Brice is 6’5”, Greek and had a tendency to arouse me in inappropriate places, such as in the front seat of my rental car at Twin Peaks and the breakfast joint we point-1-2’d after leaving the bar. The reason we met, aside from his confidence, was something so transparent and obvious, yet nothing I paid attention to prior to my trip: light. I could SEE him. Despite twerking and jerking in only a handful of bars the night of my 24th birthday, each and every one had a dance floor with lights billowing from the floors and ceilings, even the walls, revealing the perfect smoothness of a Greek God’s jawline, as well as the cracks and crevices of a 60 year old statue scanning the crowd for some young tourist to come sit on his lap. The dance floor is a micro-community within a bar where being wild and free, completely open, available, and susceptible to interaction outside of your comfort zone is accepted…sought after. The ability to see the eyes of every single person, looking at them looking at me looking at their arms/chest/asses/faces, is what allowed me to visually connect with someone. With Brice. Our connection did not stem from a ball-grab or an ass shoved into one or the other’s crotch. We saw each other, coherently: eyeballing, grinning at, and motioning toward one another. I could SEE his thirst, and he saw mine. The next morning, he took me around the city and showed me places I would have never found on my own. He also gave me strep throat; a connection I could have lived without.
These past two nights, back in Chicago, I walked to Boystown with my best friend, ending up at my favorite place to twerk, Scarlet. The music, despite seemingly coming from the same CD-ROM night after night, is mostly tolerable, and the bar staff is absolutely stunning. Just, gorgeous. One gripe is the lack of space. When I dance, y’all need to get the fuck out of the way or else you will get hammered by my Beyonce – “Diva” na-na-na fists. Scarlet, like Spin, Roscoe’s, Progress Bar, etc.’s dance floors, is dark…pitch black (besides the the rainbow laser beams ejaculating toward your face from the ceiling in motions tied to the beat of the music). Typically everyone (trolls aside) is dancing on these floors Sunday through Saturday. Scarlet tends to turn the lights on 15 minutes before they close to clear the place out. The instant that light turns on, 85% of the crowd has a look of sheer terror on their faces. It’s as if the light triggers a game similar to those in the movie “Saw”, wherein anyone caught dancing when the light turns on will be shot dead. Not by bullets, but by judgement. The constant darkness the gay community subjects itself to every time it wants to socialize, drink, and dance (two things we do very, very well, and often) fuels this blind confidence…this arrogant, uppity persona that plagues so many of us. I’ve experienced it; men watching me as I dance, even tiptoeing up to me, standing a foot away in my line of vision, staring, as if to invoke some sort of sex act on command. And me? I just stare into space, pretending I don’t see this person who is a dick’s length away from me, whose interest in me is only made noticeable every other beat of whatever song is blasting from the speakers.
In a way, the darkness, or the lack of awareness of who’s watching me, gives me some sort of power. When that light kicks on, however, I continue to twerk as best I can, catering my movements to avoid the frightened, gay-deer in headlights scurrying by and outside onto Halsted Street to the next dark disco. These insecurities, present in all of us, are rarely recognized as such because of the darkness that has built up inside…the idea that these people, who are more than likely here for the same reason as you, are not worth your time or attention. Maybe you take their hand and dance, fuck it. Or, maybe, you pretend to text someone as you move to another area. As technology continues to advance and attending your best friend’s wedding via pictures on Facebook is more likely than being physically present at the ceremony, it is your duty to be open and willing to establish new connections while maintaining the ones you have. The bitterness, and the pretentious aura that beams from the “men” in these bars makes everyone more insecure, building thicker walls between one another, conclusively resulting in a social setting wherein the only relevant connections being made are of the molecules making up the alcohol/glasses/bodies/air inevitably rubbing against one another. If this is the future of not only gay life in Chicago, but life in all social settings, we are doomed. Relationships as we know it are as useless as the $40 you spent on alcohol to “socialize”. The next time you get all dolled-up for a night of sweat and alcohol, meet someone new…make a new friend. Fuck, GIVE SOMEONE A COMPLIMENT. If all of that seems like too much, since, you know, you’re the prettiest, best dancing, shiniest diamond in the place and no one outside of you social circle is worth your time, take that $40 and surprise a loved one with flowers, or offer to pay the tab of the gorgeous man at the table next to you. When you die, will you be content knowing the only person you pleased on this planet was yourself?