FRIDAY, JULY 16
As the city's officially sanctioned gay ghetto, Boystown always presents the biggest challenge during the Great Gay-Bar Bar-Crawl. Even with this year's reduced ambitions (only gay bars I considered new or notable made the itinerary), I still ended up visiting 10 bars in two nights--a far cry from the roughly 20 Boystown taverns I squeezed into previous crawls, but still one more than the number of places visited in parts one, two, and three of this year's edition combined.
After having sat out the previous installments, my boyfriend Kito tagged along on both nights of the final weekend. On Friday, it was a struggle to keep his bossiness in check, for, let's face it, he can be controlling when it comes to logistical matters. In addition to squabbling with him about that, I squabbled with one of his friends about politics, watched a bartender squabble with customers about not drinking enough, and, once I had consumed a fair amount of alcohol, squabbled some more with Kito about all manner of trivia. It was an evening of conflict.
10. Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club. 3700 N. Halsted St. 10.20pm.
An appealing mix of kitsch and swank, Kit Kat has one major drawback: on weekends, it's nearly always stuffed with bachelorette parties. It has a charming floor show performed by drag queens, you see, and any place where anybody even thinks about drag queens is bound to be swarming with women in boas and penis veils. It's the inevitable downside.
Now, I do not object to bachelorette parties in Boystown for the usual reasons. The supposed let's-look-at-monkeys-at-the-zoo air about such excursions doesn't offend me, nor do I consider it a slap in the face for someone to tout their impending nuptials among a group forbidden the right to marry. As the girls clearly do not intend any ill will, the most you can charge them with is insensitivity, which really isn't as grave a crime as we pretend nowadays.
No, the reasons I don't like bachelorette parties in Boystown are the same reasons why I don't like bachelorette parties in any other part of town: they're loud, obnoxious, and typified by an aggressive brand of fun not unlike that of the maenads, who, as you'll recall from The Bacchae by Euripides, ended up tearing the king of Thebes limb from limb (to say nothing of the havoc they wrought last season on True Blood).
As it was still early when we arrived at Kit Kat, no grisly sacrifices to Dionysus had gotten underway yet, but we weren't about to wait around for them to start. Besides, a prissy bartender kept telling the people next to us that unless they planned on ordering more drinks, they should kindly get the hell out so that paying customers could use their stools. The offenders did not take this suggestion well, but Kito and I certainly got the message: as soon as we had downed our drinks (I had something that tasted like a green Jolly Rancher), we were out of there, limbs mercifully intact.
11. Rehab. 3641 N. Halsted St. 10.52pm.
Recently redesigned to resemble something from the pages of the IKEA catalogue, Circuit's front bar provides lots of views of the new furniture unobstructed by tiresomely opaque human bodies. Which is another way of saying the place was almost completely deserted when we arrived. Perhaps it grows busier later? After all, Rehab is essentially an overflow room for Circuit--a dance club filled with shirtless, drug-addled gods in my day, now a spot frequented primarily by Latinos--and Circuit stays open 'til 4am, so maybe after hours Rehab gets hopping like the proverbial Mexican jumping bean, which in this case would be awfully apt.
12. Roscoe's Tavern. 3356 N. Halsted St. 11.40pm.
You know what I like about Roscoe's? In the nearly 10 years since I first stepped foot inside, not one thing about the place has changed. The decor remains Barleycorn-esque, the clientele young and suburban-seeming, the music staunchly middle-of-the-road. People still walk around carrying pitchers of vodka and pink lemonade brought to such levels of sickly-sweetness that patrons have been known to contract diabetes merely from the fumes. Every wood surface is still sticky and you'd still rather not think about why. Those weird dollhouses still sit on a high shelf by the front door. Okay, the dance floor is slightly different 'cause didn't the old one burn down or something? But the replacement is a convincing replica and therefore feels just as haunted by the ghosts of my early adulthood. Troy, Orange, the 21-year-old version of the BFF, the you and me that used to be--it feels like any one of them could appear from around a corner and the intervening decade would float away like dance-floor fog and we'd be impossibly young again and just starting out and everything would be like it was and it would be wonderful and we wouldn't even know how good we had it because you never do.
13. DS Tequila Company. 3352 N. Halsted St. 12.40am.
I asked a bartender at this brand-new burgers-and-tacos-and-margaritas place what the initials in the name stand for, but she wouldn't tell me out of modesty. So I asked another, less delicate bartender, and he told me "DS" stands for "Dirty Sanchez." First of all, gross. Second of all, why? Is it because it's a tequila bar and Sanchez is a Spanish last name? Because that's not a good reason. If I opened a boxing gym, I wouldn't call it "Donkey Punch Sports"--or, sorry, "DP Sports"--just because boxing involves punching. And you know why? Because, again, gross.
I didn't have much time to dwell on the name, though, because I soon found myself arguing about politics with a Republican-leaning friend of Kito's. I don't recall how it started, but before long he was saying alarmingly anti-union, pro-TIF things, and I had to defend the side of righteousness--which wasn't easy, let me tell you, given my staggering ignorance on the subject of tax-increment financing (or TIF). My argument in full: "TIFs are bad. It was in the Reader."
Luckily, there are always insults when one's logic fails. At one point, when my adversary said something about how we both are entitled to our opinions, I believe I said, "Yes, but your opinions are ugly and wrong" (paraphrasing Agnes Skinner from The Simpsons). Later, when he wanted to declare a truce, I haughtily refused to shake his hand.
14. Berlin. 954 W. Belmont Ave. 1.52am.
Mock-outrage constituted a good portion of my displeasure, but sometimes when I've been drinking, the mock resembles the genuine article. Thus, on the way from DS to Berlin, Kito kept telling me that I had taken the argument with his friend too far and that now I would have to apologize. At this point, what comedy remained in my anger evaporated entirely, and I told Kito that I had tired of his telling me what to do--including but not limited to his evening-long attempts to run the crawl according to a timetable of his own devising, not mine--and that he should take his bossy little Puerto Rican self home. He did not care for this suggestion, and when I did not pay his cover fee at Berlin--because, I swear to God, I didn't hear him say he had run out of money--and even though I pursued him out of the club and pleaded with him to stay--he did indeed take his bossy little Puerto Rican self home.
Well, I had a crawl to finish, Kito or no Kito, so I went back inside, where I hung out with this guy Dave, a friend of my boyfriend's friend's boyfriend. He knew the DJ, who was playing music Berlin's Web site describes as "electronica/alternative dance." I dutifully bopped about. Remarking on the fact that the dance floor was packed to an uncomfortable degree, one of Dave's friends said, "Everyone who doesn't know the songs should have to leave!" I of course agreed wholeheartedly, despite my thorough unfamiliarity with everything on the playlist. The truth is that my idea of dance music is Les Brown and His Band of Renown, but sometimes it's best to keep that information to myself.
[Incidentally, by the following morning Kito and I had made up, and the sun rose on a tranquil world once more.]