Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Drinking, Men

I've been having sex with men in one form or another, though not with any regularity, since I was thirteen years old. I didn't start drinking in any focused way 'till my early twenties. I would be into my thirties before I attempted to combine the two in a concerted effort.

Avid interest in music and early adaptation of beer snobbery dictated my initial and primary drinking mode. I was drawn to divey bars where the DJ serenaded me; spinning obscure vinyl or playing good copies of the music I steal off the internet or strain to hear over the static of low powered college radio station broadcasts, and backed up by similarly oriented juke boxes. The bartenders placed sweaty pint glasses heady with hoppy bitter craft brews on the counter before me, while I scribbled on the backs of band and gallery flyers plucked from stacks by the door. These were the sorts of places where I wasted a great deal of free time and most of my art drone salary before and during the period in which I declared to myself and my circle of friends that I was Officially Gay Now.

With my clear new amorous/libidinous focus firmly in my mind, I was prepared to augment my drinking with the pursuit of like minded gay homosexual men who must surely frequent these same establishments. There was a problem though; that I had absolutely no gaydar what-so-ever. True, there were some obvious candidates at my regular haunts and the sceny after hours clubs in Polish or Ukrainian benevolent society halls(where they had Yards ESA in bottles along side the Miller High Life and Budweiser cans)where we ended our evenings; lithe and effervescent fellows in snug subtlely coordinated ensembles who led small clusters of giggling girls with plastic barrettes in their two-tone hair from opening after party to post concert gatherings, and also slightly older guys; textile collection curators, assistant gallery directors and purveyors of mid-century modern furniture wearing wind tunnel formed Prada slip ons and German made titanium eyeglasses. I was flattered by the attentions of these men and was gratified to discover that I would do for them (and did in fact do some of them) but quickly realized that they really weren't what I was looking for. More interesting but more difficult to distinguish from the rest of the half-a-fag-anyway alterna herd, were a scruffier set. They shuffled along in tight faded Girl Scouts, Saving and Loan or Little League t-shirts, low flared leg jeans dragging over ratty Chuck Taylors and Japanese issue Pumas (not sold at Bloomingdales or Foot Locker), with Molskine sketch books or the new Broken Social Scene EP (vinyl, of course) stuffed into their patch, sticker and paint pen enlivened messenger bags. With generally bad posture, they slouched along the bar rails and room perimiters, wallet chains catching and reflecting the neon beer sign lights, with the fingers of one hand squeezed into a tight front pocket, the other clutching a can of Pabsts Blue Ribbon set on the edges of their white vinyl, studded black leather, or wide, worn, tooled vintage belt straps, ironically clasped with tarnished Coors or chipped enameled Iron Maiden buckles. The gay members of this demographic were most clearly distinguished from the heteros by the presence of boyfriends. In spite of the monogamous halos these couples typically wore, one or the other (and sometimes both, but always separately) might roll around with me. Though these liaisons generated some really good stories set in stairwells, backstage corners and apartment building vestibules, later, when accompanied by their partners, these wayward significant others would find me to be invisible. Of course, they already HAD boyfriends. So I was still basically in the same situation as before I "came out".

One evening, my best girl buddy, seven years my junior and already a seasoned veteran of fag haggery, took me aside (with no intended irony) to set me straight. "Look" she said lovingly, but with an older sister's firmness "You're never gonna meet anybody hanging out with a bunch of straight boys at Khyber and 700. You are going to have to go to a queer bar."

A few weeks later, on my birthday, I started my second mode of drinking activity.
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