As in previous editions of the GGBBC, I saved Boystown for last. Of the area's 20 or so gay bars, I planned to visit nine over the course of two nights. I ended up having to add a third night, however, due to unforeseen difficulties on Saturday. But we'll talk about that next time.
FRIDAY, JULY 13
10. Little Jim's. 3501 N. Halsted St. 10.24pm.
North Halsted's oldest gay bar--est. 1975--appears to have gotten ever so slightly less cruisy than the last time I was here. Gone are the pornos from the TVs and the leerers and gropers in the men's room. I had mixed feelings about this development. On the one hand, porn and leering and groping in a bar make me uncomfortable. On the other, I appreciate links to queerdom's skeevy past. I guess I feel like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz, when she tells the lion that, although she knows it isn't right, she's going to miss the way he used to queen out all the time before he found his courage.
Then again, it was still relatively early. Maybe Little Jim's reverts to its old ways later in the night. In which case, never mind.
There is, however, one good piece of news for nostalgic visitors who drop by at any time: the place still has its Boca-Timeshare-Circa-1985 design scheme.
11. Elixir. 3452 N. Halsted St. 10.53pm.
At Elixir, you have to wait to be seated by a maître d' as if you were at a restaurant. There's no food, though. I think it's just supposed to make you feel fancy. The host who seated Kito and me told us that he likes to think of the place as what would happen if the Violet Hour and Hydrate had a baby. So...craft cocktails and 22-year-old retail clerks freshly arrived from Indiana? Is this a combination anyone has been clamoring for?
I ordered a sazerac, a New Orleans drink made with rye whiskey and absinthe. I don't know what I was thinking. I was thoroughly smashed before I had downed even half of it.
12. Cocktail. 3359 N. Halsted St. 11.54pm.
Every time I'm at Cocktail, the go-go boy performing is this dancer I call "Never Give Up" because those words are tattooed across his chest in 20-point font. Sure enough, he was there on Friday, occupying the stage with a little self-satisfied smile on his face and nothing on his body save for a skimpy pair of red underpants.
He was very popular with the crowd, despite the fact that he barely moved, and rarely in time with the music (in the past, I've dubbed this type of performance "stancing"--not quite dancing, not quite standing still). His popularity seemed to stem from two sources: a.) the close, grinding attention he gave to tippers and b.) his most frequently deployed dance move, which involved pulling the front of his briefs down so that we could see the top of his dick and then getting it to bounce up and down, seemingly of its own accord.
His routine went on for like 45 minutes. He Never Gave Up.
13. The Closet. 3325 N. Broadway St. 1.23am.
Things took a turn for the maudlin at the Closet. In my early twenties, I spent many a late night at this little black box of a bar, where Missy Elliott was always in heavy rotation and the tobacco-clogged, pre-smoking-ban air always had my eyes streaming within the first 20 minutes. It was here that I met Troy, with whom I had an abbreviated romance, followed by a friendship cut short by his death in 2004.
Actually, we hadn't maintained regular contact for some time before that. He had fallen in with a bad crowd, you see. Though I don't have any proof, I suspect that drugs had something to do with the cardiac episode that did him in. Perhaps it's a measure of my hubris, but I've always thought that if I had still been in his life, it wouldn't have ended so soon. Is that irrational?
Anyway, being back in the Closet on Friday made me a little weepy over the whole thing (the lingering effects of the sazerac likely contributed). Something I've learned in the years since I was a semi-regular here: there are things you get past without getting over.