I usually have to rely upon the expertise of others to keep me up to speed with trends and styles in our modern culture. The ever-changing music scene is one area in particular where I am totally ignorant. Despite efforts of my friends to keep my truck's CD magazine stocked with hip sounds and monitor my awareness level in areas like science and technology, there are limits to what degree such indoctrination can be successful and take root. And one of the main aspects of modern queer culture, and another of my own failings, is the club scene. That's where my friend Eric comes in.
I have been visiting Eric this past week in Chicago, where he is plugged-in to the world revolving around music, mixes, DJs and drugs. The North Halsted Market Days street fair is one of those times when all of these elements combine in a whirlwind of Disco-throb, muscle boys and fried brain cells. Eric can navigate through the storm like a tough old salt, though he is a thin, wry, Gen-Xer. He knows everybody who's anybody, and cuts the hair of everybody else. He also spins records for clubs and parties and gets his face splashed about in candid club-scene photo collages in the hippest fag rag.
Having Eric as a host guarantees a parade of faces and names and dishy anecdotes. The amazing thing is, with so many people on so many different concoctions, that anyone remembers names at all. When I was in college, I had a reputation as a master partyer. Hah! These folks make my college drug consumption look skimpier than Ally McBeal's diet. The perpetual cycle of party, cruise, gab, walking, drinking and drugs is dizzying though entertaining. It's just tough to keep the pace. If you're not into that scene, it's easy to feel left out.
We went to a party where Eric and others were working shifts spinning.
"Hurry up, faggot!," became the catch phrase for the night.
Now faggots don't hurry too well as is, and depending on what drug they're on, perhaps not at all.
Sometimes, if they're doing coke, crystal, or maybe X, they're buzzing about like yellow jackets at a trash can. But if they're on something like K or G or some alphabet soup combination, they're more like the laconic flies that get trapped in the refrigerator. At such time, you really have to wonder how these experiences get characterized as "fun." At the party, Eric was spinning records for a bit until he started spinning himself, then he went to crash on the sofa with his new boyfriend Jon. Jon is a dark, brooding, intense young man with a shaved head and a chronic sleep disorder. He's a skateboarder and speed enthusiast who it appears might have burned out his body's off-and-on switch. When he's not kept active, contemplating world destruction or the anal-erotic potentials of produce, he's sleeping. He slept right through much of the party. And when Eric tried to get back up and onto the turntables his stomach spun him right to the bathroom for a much-needed puke.
With most of my associates either working the turntables or passed out, I was left to mingle. I couldn't get all fucked-up, because I'd be driving all these people home. Mixing and mingling I find to be quite easy in towns where no one knows you. It's like you're in control of their perceptions. Well, to a degree. And since I was wearing a black leather harness and lederhosen, like hell if I was going to come off as Mr. Shy.
I guess I made a good first impression, even in such a slutty get-up, or possibly because of it. The next day of Market Days madness had me getting greetings and waves from all these folks of the previous night, one of whom I found out was a psycho maniac and compulsive phone and Internet stalker. Suffice it to say, I'm glad I'm not hooked up.
But these big-city folk don't quite know what to make of my country/provincial ways and wide-eyed wonder. Driving a big truck with four guys in it on a Saturday night on a party weekend in a strange metropolis had me doing weird things like stopping at intersections, waiting for oncoming traffic and failing to distinguish a 7-Eleven from a Korean grocery store. My passengers were rolling their eyes and muttering frustrated gasps.
"You are too nice," was one warning, and "This town will eat you alive," was another.
And they're largely right. As was the case with the drugs, such also is the case with social habits. I was thinking all the pessimism and cynicism in the world was swirling around me like bad karma, but compared to these guys, I'm Pollyanna come to life. Jon didn't know who that was. Eric laughed, he knew exactly.
Apparently, I've led a sheltered life compared with the stylish disdain and pessimism, which pervades much of our urban queer youth culture. Would a city like Chicago chew me up and spit me back to Ohio? Maybe. But it also could be a place to make a fresh start with no history, except for the crowd of expatriate Cincinnatians littering the streets. They stop me and ask me what I'm doing here. When I say I'm considering relocating, they remind me that I've been saying that for five years.
As a visitor, aesthetic distance allows for observation and evaluation. As a resident, you risk suction into the vortex. And whatever shit you get into, not all of it comes out in the wash.